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More than half of UK workforce lacks essential digital skills, says Lloyd’s

In the modern world, digital skills are becoming increasingly important, but a large amount of the UK workforce doesn’t measure up, Lloyd’s has found

More than half of UK adults do not have the essential digital skills needed for the workplace, despite 54% of UK workers using the internet as part of their jobs.

A benchmarking report from Lloyd’s, called the UK consumer digital index, found that 53% of UK adults don’t have all of the essential skills the modern workplace demands.

Some of the skills Lloyd’s deemed “essential”, which more than half of the UK’s working population didn’t have, included the ability to avoid potentially harmful links or popups, being able to share documents as email attachments and knowing how to use online payments.

It also found that a third of the UK’s workforce lacked basic cyber security skills.

“With UK productivity in mind, it is concerning to see that 53% of UK employees do not have the essential digital skills required for the workplaces of today and tomorrow,” said Stephen Noakes, retail transformation managing director of Lloyds Banking Group, in the report’s foreword.

“On the whole, the 2019 UK consumer digital index finds that while more people are doing more online, a concerning proportion of the population are lacking the skills they need to truly succeed.”

Lloyd’s developed the benchmark in partnership with organisations such as DCMS, Google and BT to measure the level of digital skills its respondents have. The benchmark was broken down into three tiers – foundation skills, essential digital skills for life, and essential digital skills for work.

Each of these segments has a number of tasks people should be able to complete if they have that particular level of essential skill, from turning on a mobile device as part of the foundation skills, to using digital collaboration tools in the workplace.

Research by Lloyd’s found a number of disparities between different segments of the population and the likelihood of those people having the digital skills needed for work and day-to-day life.

For example, it found those who are “digital first” – people who are highly digitally capable – are 73% more likely than those who have little or no digital activity to recognise that digital skills can improve their employability.

The digitally savvy are also more likely to agree that being online helps them save money, manage their physical and mental health, and organise their lives more than those who are not online.

But not everyone has the means to access the internet or the money to buy digital devices, in many cases leaving those from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to suffer.

People in a higher earning bracket were more likely to have the digital skills needed for the workplace – 61% of people earning more than £25,000 a year have a majority of the skills needed for the modern workplace, as opposed to only 25% of those earning under £11,499 annually.

Those who are unemployed are also more likely to lack digital skills than those who have a job, Lloyds found.

Despite the government trying to ensure people’s basic digital skills are up to scratch via the UK’s computing curriculum and various other initiatives, there are still barriers in the way of many without the skills needed for modern living.

Since its research in 2018, Lloyd’s found the percentage of people with almost no use of digital has dropped from 15% to 12%. The bank expects this number to fall to 8% by 2030 as the UK has seen an increase in people over the age of 60 adopting technology for activities such as shopping.

Around 22% of people don’t have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day usage of tech, including 11% of people being unable to turn on a device, and 13% being unable to open an app.

Out of the 8% of UK adults who are completely offline, 75% said they had no interest in being online, citing fears over cyber security as a top concern.

While many believe the largest segment of those who are not digitally savvy are older, that is not always the case.

Almost half of people who are not online are under the age of 60, and 47% of people who are not online come from low-income households.

A small segment of the population (8%) couldn’t complete any of the tasks required in the foundation digital skills segment, which included turning on a device, using a mouse, keyboard or touch screen, connecting a device to Wi-Fi and using a device’s menu settings.

Those with disabilities also find it difficult to get online, with 35% lacking the digital skills needed for day-to-day tasks despite having the essential skills needed for the workplace.

One-fifth of those with a disability said there is no technology to help people in their situation to use online tech more easily.

While a lack of basic digital skills poses a threat to modern living, those in the technology industry are also concerned about the lack of soft skills in the talent market – with uncertainty surrounding Brexit leaving many with the fear that both skills gaps may widen.

Read more about digital skills

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  • Manufacturing still accounts for a large amount of the UK economy, and when it comes to the fourth industrial revolution, the UK has aspirations to be a world leader – but does it have the digital know-how?

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