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The digital skill gap and preparation for the future

With the demand for digital skills always rising, you too can learn how to prepare your business for the future


Businesses across Europe have had to dive headfirst into digital transformation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This seismic shift has changed the emphasis placed on the skills needed to successfully operate a business, with digital skills becoming increasingly sought-after for modern employers.

While demand for these skills has risen exponentially, many businesses have discovered that digital skills are harder to come by than first thought. In fact, finding tech skills amongst new recruits is considered one of the biggest challenges, with 43% of businesses identifying it as a key skills gap to fill by 2030 according to our Europe-wide survey. What’s more, according to The Learning & Work Institute, the UK in particular is heading towards a “catastrophic” digital skills shortage, with the number of students taking IT subjects at GCSE falling by 40% since 2015.

So what is being done by governments to overcome this obstacle, and what can businesses of today do to help prepare their staff for the needs of tomorrow?
We discuss this and more below…

Why have these digital skills become so essential?

When speaking at #ThoseWhoDare, an event hosted by Vodafone Business, CENTURY Tech CEO Prya Lakhani perfectly summarised why digital skills are becoming increasingly important in the modern working world. “The pandemic has only proven that technology has rapidly advanced. Adoption (of emerging technologies) has just accelerated” says Priya.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses across the continent have looked to incorporate digital technologies such as AI and cloud infrastructure to create more agile and adaptable business models. In the case of cloud infrastructure, global research company Gartner have predicted that spending on public cloud services will grow 23.1% in 2021 to $332.3USD billion, up from $270USD billion in 2020.
While these emerging technologies have been invaluable tools in weathering the COVID-19 storm, their integration has unearthed a concerning truth – today’s workforce does not have the adequate skills to effectively utilise these tools to their full potential.

What does this digital skills gap mean for businesses?

With this dawning realisation, some businesses have flagged their concerns of what this lack of digital skills means for the future. In a report by WorldSkillsUK and The Learning & Work Institute, 76% of employers surveyed said that a lack of digital skills would affect the profitability of their business.

But the scarcity of these essential skills does not only apply to ‘digital’ industries. In the same report, 100% of employers in media, marketing, advertising and PR said they believed basic digital skills, such as creating presentations, using emails and communicating over apps such as Zoom or Teams, were important for employees.
Priya explains, “It’s only a matter of time until a business will be overrun” if it fails to learn how to use these technologies effectively.

What can be done to fill this digital skills gap?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Much is being done at a government level to rectify this dearth of digital skills. As part of the European Union’s NextGenerationEU COVID-19 relief package, businesses across Europe will be given the opportunity to apply for funds to help better prepare for the digitised future. In particular, upskilling and reskilling young people and current workers has been labelled as a key priority that the relief package wishes to address.

So, with this relief package on the horizon, what can you do to help equip and re-equip your employees with the necessary digital skills?

One of the keys to developing your employees’ digital know-how is the process of upskilling and reskilling. For many businesses, this is done by setting up internal or external training workshops which expand and harness these skills.

However, other SME leaders, such as Juan Merodio, CEO of the TEKDI Institute, have opted for a more consistent form of training and learning. Juan implores his employees to turn ‘learning into a daily habit where you spend at least 25 minutes a day learning something new’, with digital skills being a primary target for Juan and the TEDKI Institute.

Similarly, Priya believes that understanding new technologies and developing digital tech skills can be “as simple as watching some videos online”. Alternatively, Priya believes events, which have become “more accessible than ever before” due to many taking place online, are a key pathway to learning more about how digital technologies can apply to your business and how to use them properly.

The digital skills gap is not to be feared. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s an opportunity for all small business owners to better equip employees with the right tools to meet the customer needs of tomorrow.

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