Following Google’s recent announcement promising free digital skills training to everyone in the UK, and much discussion over the past year about the ‘digital skills gap,’ I thought we’d recap on some of the facts.

Google boss Sundar Pichai announced: “No matter where you live, no matter where you’re from, no matter what your job is – you deserve access to all the information, education, and opportunity the web has to offer.” An extension of Google’s Digital Garage that has been running for the past couple of years to help SMEs and entrepreneurs make the most of digital, the initiate aims to help everyone tackle digital.

Digital Skills for SMEs

Although online tools and resources are more accessible than ever, for small and growing businesses the House of Commons Digital Skills Crisis report found that 49% of SMEs are suffering tech skill gaps in the UK. It also reported that the digital skills gap costs the UK economy around £63bn a year in lost income.

The issue is built on the fact that digital is changing so quickly, constantly. Entrepreneurs are good at what they do, which is why they go into business but keeping up with the ever evolving world of digital, and managing to successfully complete proves difficult for some. Awareness of the tools and support that are out there is one thing, finding the time to learn and develop is another. The rise in popularity of freelance and flexible workers may be a solution to some of the issues, as SMEs are able to draft in experts to work part-time or on a project basis.

Larger Organisations Also Lacking Digital Skills

90% of new jobs require digital skills to some degree, and expectations are growing. The Government’s Digital Skills for the Economy report stated that 72% of large companies are suffering tech skill gaps in the UK. Further than office based jobs that require spreadsheet and word processing skills, people-focussed jobs such as retail roles now also require more digital knowledge than ever.

Building Digital Skills into Education

Workplace training to properly equip employees, inline with the economic growth that demands more focus on digital skills may help, but 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills (The Tinder Foundation.) And 72% of employers are unwilling to interview candidates who do not have basic IT skills, so the problem needs to be tackled at the source – education. This involves improving IT equipment in schools, as well as offering options for training and development in digital fields. Schemes are in place (such as those run by the Tinder Foundation and Digital Advantage) to help not only provide more digital courses but also to help students learn ‘employable skills’ that will help them find work either in a digital role, or give them the digital skills they need to further their career in any industry.

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