MPs warn that the UK faces a digital skills crisis

The UK is facing a worsening digital skills gap, a new Select Committee report has warned.

The ‘Digital Skills Crisis’ report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee claims that a lack of digital skills is already costing the UK economy around £63 billion a year. Unless action is taken this figure could rise still further as the country’s productivity and competitiveness levels are damaged.

According to the report the UK will need an additional 745,000 workers equipped with digital skills between 2013 levels and 2017. The vast majority (90%) of new jobs required at least a degree of digital skills and 72% of employers report that they would not be willing to even interview candidates who did not possess a basic level of IT skills.

Beyond basic skills, there is also an increasing demand for more in-depth technical knowledge in roles and areas such as cyber-security, data analytics and cloud computing.

A CBI report at the start of the year found that businesses were flagging the skills shortage as a major problem. More than half (52%) of respondents said the development and maintenance of digital skills was of paramount importance, while 46% said that a lack of skills threatened to have a major impact on the UK’s labour market competitiveness.

Failing to find the right people with the right skills could hamper growth and even leave some individual businesses facing the sort of problems that require turnaround management.

The Select Committee report found that up to 12.6 million of the adult UK population lack basic digital skills. Incredibly, an estimated 5.8 million people have never used the internet at all.

According to the report, the skills gap is an issue throughout all stages of education and training. An IT equipment audit found that 22% of equipment in schools is defective while only around a third (35%) of ICT teachers held a relevant qualification. Only 70% of the required number of computer science teachers have been recruited into the profession.

By Phil Smith

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