Addressing the digital skills challenge

504 views

Published on

According to e-skills UK, the government’s IT skills agency, the IT sector alone requires about 140,000 new entrants every year to fuel its workforce. And yet, only 19,410 people completed a degree in an IT-related subject in 2012.

This means that businesses need to look beyond their graduate intake if they are to plug the digital skills gap...

Published in: Business
0 Comments
1 Like
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
504
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
5
Comments
0
Likes
1
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Addressing the digital skills challenge

  1. 1. D igital technology has permeated every facet of working life, from customer service and collaboration to product design and strategy. If organisations are to thrive in this environment, the need for employees with digital skills is inescapable. Alas, the statistics make for grim reading. According to the European Commission, at least 90% of jobs will soon require some level of digital skill, but more than half of Europe’s existing labour force is deficient in this area. The Commission projects that up to 900,000 jobs requiring high levels of digital skills will go unfilled by 2015. This comes at a time when, according to the World Economic Forum, chronic joblessness threatens the very stability of society in Europe. Much has been made of the short supply of IT graduates entering the workforce. According to e-skills UK, the government’s IT skills agency, the IT sector alone requires about 140,000 new entrants every year to fuel its workforce. And yet, only 19,410 people completed a degree in an IT-related subject in 2012. However, graduates are not the only potential source of digital skills. There are many people further along in their career who would be willing and able to acquire such skills. Unfortunately, employers are still focused on the entry points to the profession, particularly at graduate level, according Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK. Not all age groups are given the same consideration, she says, and opportunities for further training seem to diminish as people become older.   “People from other backgrounds, who may have much to offer in IT, can’t find the combination of training and experience they need to make a contribution,” Ms Price explains. One way to address this education gap is through apprenticeships, whichcanofferawayintoworkforpeopleofallages,andthestructured approach – a mix of college learning and on-the-job experience – often suits people returning to the workforce. Ms Price says that e-skills UK has worked with employers who already have a keen interest in IT apprentices. These initiatives help to spread the benefits of high-quality technology apprenticeships to a wider and more diverse audience. Another scheme promoted by e-skills UK is called Pathways to Digital Employment. Set up in partnership with the Welsh Government, the programme is helping 300 individuals who are not in work, or who want to change careers, to update their technology expertise. Early indications are encouraging. “It’s proving tremendously popular, and attracting people of all ages and from all kinds of backgrounds. It would be great to think that this is a straw in the wind,” says Ms Price. “If the sector can find a way to make the pipeline of talent more permeable along its whole length, it will reap dividends.” Latent talent Some businesses are themselves thinking about how they might make more of the latent talent within their organisations. Ian Cohen, global CIO at insurance brokers JLT Group, believes that the changing nature of technology means that is no longer pure IT skills that businesses need. Despite the warnings of organisations such as e-Skills UK, Mr Cohen says he can still find plenty of people who know how to write code. In shorter supply are hybrid individuals with a mix of business aptitude and IT ability, who listen to people, interpret demands and assemble solutions. “We need people who start with a question, and not a predefined or prescribed answer,” says Mr Cohen. “We’re going to need a new breed of technology professional, with strengths based in conversation and engagement rather than code.” GiventhestateoftheITlabourmarketandthecriticallackofcomputing science graduates, Mr Cohen says senior executives might need to start leading the search for talent among the people the business already employs. This may provide a much-needed bridge between IT and the rest of the organisation. Addressing the digital skills challenge Businesses need to look beyond their graduate intake if they are to plug the digital skills gap Written by The Economist Intelligence Unit Sponsored by:
  2. 2. “They’ll be the ones who love spending time with their colleagues or customers, developing a deep understanding of their needs,” says Mr Cohen. “They’ll tell stories and paint pictures about the art of the possible. They’ll have empathy and a passion for the tangible outcomes that delight their customers and colleagues.” He believes that some business leaders will view the retraining of existing, and possibly older, workers as a challenge. But Mr Cohen encourages his peers to grasp the opportunity. “Many of these workers have strengths that are crying out to be seen if only we, as leaders, made the time to look and listen,” he says. “It’s going to be harder than just buying in skills, but the IT market is already challenged, so why not take a chance on the people you already have and value?” With technology becoming an ever more vital part of working life, companies should think about how they might enhance the digital skills of every employee, rather than waiting for the labour market to supply the skills they need.

×