The National Audit Office says we have to wait 20 years for tech skills to evolve. O2’s Ann Pickering thinks we can find the qualified staff now, if we know where to look
Earlier this week, the National Audit Office highlighted a gap in the number of digitally skilled experts needed to tackle the UK’s fight against cyber crime, suggesting it could take up to 20 years to address the deficit. Whilst it’s encouraging that the NAO has acknowledged this, in reality, the gap in this sector is just one part of a bigger digital skills challenge facing our nation.
There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people in the UK today. Having grown up with the internet, this is an untapped community of digital natives whose skills can add incredible value to business, regardless of sector or industry. They hold the key to our economic recovery, and yet not nearly enough is being done to harness it.
Our own research shows that the unused digital skills hiding within this community of unemployed young people are valued by the UK businesses at £6.7 billion. The study highlighted that businesses are in vital need of qualified staff, including web designers, coding and social media experts. The research also found that businesses expect a fifth (21 percent) of their growth over the next three years to come from digital channels.
So what should be done now to address this digital skills deficit? It is time all employers start looking for the people who have the skills which will help to fuel our economy.
Whilst various sectors are right to focus on their own specific needs, they must also collaborate with the Government and other businesses. Britain’s future competitiveness is currently being limited by sectors working in silos: addressing short-term, sector specific skills deficits in isolation will not unlock the full growth potential of the emerging digital economy.
All businesses, from big to small, along with the public sector have a role to play in unlocking this talent and helping these young people on their journey into work. There is a huge number of different ways to help, be it through providing training, mentoring and work experience, or simply giving advice on what makes a great CV. At the same time, we shouldn’t just focus on the number of opportunities, it’s about the quality of those opportunities.
Equally, we need to act now to up-skill today’s young people and nurture a workforce fit for the future. After all, ten years ago, who would have predicted that the future jobs would include social media strategists, bloggers or app developers? With the fast-paced evolution of the digital world, we need to foster this generation’s to fit jobs that don’t even exist yet.
As a nation, we need to address our digital skills deficit by giving young people the opportunity to grow their confidence and capitalise on their knowledge. Only then will we build a workforce fit for the future, and see young people, business and the British economy thrive.
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