It’s make or break time. The UK is not addressing its significant digital skills shortage and urgently needs to resolve the situation, a report warned this week. It isn’t all doom and gloom though: you just need to future proof yourself - and your career - by making sure you are digitally literate.
The Digital Skills Committee, which published the report, also highlighted the impact of changing technology on the labour market, with an estimated 35% of UK jobs at risk of being automated over the next 20 years.
‘Make or Break: The UK's Digital Future’, urges the next Government to secure make digital literacy a core subject at school, alongside English and Maths.
Chair of the Committee, Baroness Morgan, said: "This report is a wake-up call to whoever forms the next Government in May. Digital is everywhere, with digital skills now seen as vital life skills. It's obvious, however, that we’re not learning the right skills to meet our future needs.
"Our approach to educating people of all ages needs a radical re-think. From an early age we need to give digital literacy as much importance as numeracy and literacy. While we welcome the introduction of the computing curriculum, we are concerned about the ability of teachers to deliver it, with more than half of our IT teachers not having a post-A level qualification relevant to IT. At the higher education level, there is an urgent need for industry input, so that graduates are learning job-relevant digital skills.
"We are at a make-or-break point for the future of the UK – for its economy, its workforce and its people. We have a choice as a country about whether we seize this opportunity or whether we fall behind. This report declares that the UK must aim to be a global digital leader, and only clear leadership from the Government will get us there."
The report called for action on digital skills in a range of areas, including:
Skills - the UK population needs to learn the right skills for the future
The report found that at all ages, from primary to secondary, to further and higher education, there is a significant gap in skills education. Industry needs to play a role in plugging this gap, particularly by offering more – and better – apprenticeships. We need a culture shift in our attitude towards cybersecurity, and must ensure we train enough people with the right skills.
Schools - make digital literacy a third core subject
The report recommends that digital literacy should be taught as a core subject alongside numeracy and literacy. While the Committee welcomed the new computing curriculum, it was concerned about who was going to teach it, as many teachers are not confident or equipped to deliver relevant digital skills.
Women - realise the economic potential of more women in digital careers
The report found that increasing the number of women in digital jobs could reap significant economic growth. Women and girls are not choosing digital and science and technology career paths or subjects at school. Partly this is because these careers are seen as a 'boys club', partly because careers guidance needs reforming, and partly because the guiding influences in their lives are unaware of the broad range of careers on offer.
Interested in a digital career? Check out this Digital and Technology apprenticeship with the Civil Service.
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