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The UK’s digital skills gap

In February 2015, the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills issued their report ‘Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future’, as a call to the incoming Government to seize the opportunity to secure the UK’s place as a global digital leader.

The Chair of the Committee, Baroness Morgan, added; “This report is a wake-up call to whoever forms the next Government in May. Digital is everywhere, with digital skills now seen as vital life skills. It’s obvious, however, that we’re not learning the right skills to meet our future needs.”

At the end of April, Martha Lane Fox put up online a short video, alongside a stream of her whole Richard Dimbleby Lecture,, thanking the over 10,200 people who have now supported DOT EVERYONE with the aim of making Britain brilliant at the internet and us the most digital nation on the planet.

Her call that; ‘we’ve been going too slow, being too incremental – in skills, in infrastructure, in public services. We need to be bolder,’ echoes her drive for women to be at the heart of the technology sector.

The digital skills gap is often talked about. ‘A study carried out on behalf of O2 towards the end of 2013 found that Britain will need 750,000 skilled digital workers by 2017’, said Matt Cynnamon of General Assembly UK in The Guardian in August 2014, ‘and if we can’t support that growth, it could result in costing the UK as much as £2bn each year’. a-million-digitally-skilled-workers-needed-to-power-uk- economy-by-2017

As Julie Ollerton, Managing Director of Creative Resources, wrote recently in Digital Marketing Magazine; ‘When you consider that the growth and success of every industry and sector in the UK is intrinsically linked to companies embracing digital as a vital part of their operation, the skills gap between the number of roles available (and the roles that will come online in the next five years) and the amount of trained, capable and ready people should be occupying the minds of everyone, from small agency owners to Whitehall policy makers’.

In 2013 a Capgemini Consulting report on the Digital Talent gap, cited that, ‘77% of companies consider missing digital skills as the key hurdle to their Digital Transformation, yet despite the skills shortage, only 46% of companies are investing in developing digital skills and only 4% of companies they interviewed were aligning their training efforts with their digital strategy’.

Local Skills Gap

Swindon and Wiltshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership City Deal bid, focussing on the transition of MOD service leavers, noted that; “Jobs growth forecasts to 2020 are 5.1% for the UK; 7.2% for the South West region; and even higher at 8.9% for Swindon and Wiltshire. This equates to the creation of 30,000 new jobs requiring Level 4 plus skills in the SWLEP area, and with the replacement of staff, 83,800 jobs requiring Level 4 plus skills. The driver of growth will be a move towards larger numbers of individuals employed in more skilled and higher value-added roles in the following growth sectors – digital technologies, life sciences, advanced engineering and finance and professional services.”

To that list can be added other areas where digital will change the word, in Digital Health, Smart Living and in Public Service Transformation as well as in Digital Communities.

The bringing together of Industry, Academia, Non Government Organisations as well as Government on national and local scales to find the right ways to proactively fill this evident skills gap is an urgent and pressing need.

The Corsham Institute was formed as a not for profit making organisation to bring these partners together, to become the UK Centre for Digital Society and is already on the journey to contribute to both the debate and the delivery of digital skills. We have started to rollout our own Apprenticeship programme with our first entrants, who will work on a rolling programme supporting our digital local television channels, notably Corsham TV and develop into Creative and Digital Media specialists.

What struck us interviewing the candidates was the fantastic range of skills, positive attitudes and raw talent of those who had applied. It gave us even more positive belief in the next generation of the digital work force and added impetus to our partnership work in finding the right delivery structures to fill the overall UK digital skills gap.