Closing the digital talent gap – how to develop tech skills

One of the biggest challenges faced by businesses today is a shortage of employees with tech skills. In the UK alone, research shows that 11.3 million people don’t have a complete range of basic digital skills while 4.3 million people have none.

As the technology ecosystem rapidly expands and businesses invest in new innovations to increase competitive advantage, it’s crucial that efforts are made to close this gap and train the workforce of the future. But how can that be done?

Tech skills are paramount

The recent coronavirus pandemic has definitely highlighted the importance of digital skills. With millions of people working remotely during lockdown, cloud computing, video conferencing, online collaboration tools and many other technologies have been crucial.

But as we come out of lockdown and offices reopen, that’s not to say digital skills will no longer be in demand. In fact, with nearly half of employees demanding more flexible working when they return to the workplace, digital skills will continue to be important.

With the rise of remote working and introduction of new technologies in the workplace, I believe there are three clear areas of skill development needed.

The ability to learn how to use new technology, such as new systems, and adapt our ways of working to them. This could be a new bit of software that replaces an Excel spreadsheet, or an RFID scanner that replaces manual checks. Technology is forging its way into our daily working lives, and we shouldn’t underestimate the cultural implications of this in organisations.

The ability to innovate and consider where technology could improve or replace existing products, services and processes. We’ve seen multiple products and industries be disrupted in recent years – for example, online streaming such as Netflix destroying the video rental sector once dominated by Blockbuster. Digital skills aren’t just about coding and building products; they’re fundamentally about thinking digitally, and considering how technology can improve the world we live in.

The development of new products and technology. This is where we get into the area of deep digital skills where engineers and developers sit – actually building solutions on the back of new ideas.

Not everyone in society will need to be able to code, but everyone will need a deeper understanding of how technology is built, and what it’s capable of, so they can help to ensure the evolved products, services and businesses are satisfying, and in some cases, creating consumer demand.

In order to close the digital skills gap and ensure staff are equipped for the future, businesses must help people to develop these skills. But where do you start?
Firstly, be honest and transparent. Digitisation is no longer an optional thing; it’s happening. So, helping to raise awareness and get people to embrace the digital journey has to come first.

Thereafter, it comes down to education. Employers need to start investing both time and money into digital education and skill development, not only to improve their workforce’s skills but as a means to survive.

And I don’t mean that to be taken lightly. It’s been proven multiple times already that those businesses that fail to innovate and to digitise are the ones that, ultimately, fail. So, digital skills development at all levels should be an absolute priority.

Ultimately, while we accelerate further and faster into a fully digital world, I think it’s important that we don’t underestimate the cultural challenges at play here. The very world we’ve been accustomed to is changing and changing fast.

It’s important that people and businesses get their heads around that, and then start to consider how they, themselves, are going to navigate that transition. And we’re always better when we navigate things together, rather than try to plot a course alone.

Written by Dan Lewis, founder of www.WeStryve.com

Research Links:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/essential-digital-skills-framework/essential-digital-skills-frameworkA flexible future: Brits expected to call time on office life after lockdown

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