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Lockdown sparks interest in digital skills for 58% of adults

Adults in the UK are becoming increasingly interested in digital skills, with over 80% saying they will become even more important over the next year

Almost 60% of online adults in the UK are interested in developing their digital skills over the next year, according to research by techUK.

The industry body, alongside Ipsos MORI and Cisco, found 58% of adults between the ages of 16 and 75 who are online want to work on their digital skills, with 82% claiming digital skills are likely to grow in importance over the next 12 months.

Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK, said the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have factored into these findings as lockdown life forced many people to work from home and rely heavily on technology to achieve day-to-day activities.

“The uptake in the use of digital technologies by businesses and individuals alike during the Covid-19 crisis is well-documented, and our polling has shown that the UK public wants to build the digital skills for the future,” she said.

“These skills will form crucial components in our continued recovery and as we look to reinvent and build the future we need across the UK. TechUK wants to work with government to spark a reskilling revolution.”

The lockdown has changed some people’s perception of technology, with around 30% of adults stating they are more confident in using technology after lockdown restrictions in the UK – around a quarter of those who said they’re more confident with technology after lockdown were in the 55 to 75 age range,. Around 32% of adults who said they are now more confident with technology following the lockdown are not currently working.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to an increased use of technology, both for businesses aiming to help their employees work from home and for individuals trying to carry out day-to-day tasks online that may usually involve physical contact.

Unfortunately, in some cases, this has left people behind, as a number of people do not have the digital skills necessary to navigate all the tasks they now need to perform digitally, for work or otherwise.

Around 78% of people said they think businesses will be more dependent on digital technology in the future, but 19% of management and decision-makers claimed technology could post both an opportunity and a threat to our overall way of life in the future.

The desire to improve digital skills was higher among younger people, with 73% of 16 to 24 year olds and 75% of 25 to 34 year olds claiming they want to work on their digital skills over the next year.

TechUK pointed out that the younger generation, while keen to develop their digital skills, are also some of the most affected by unemployment during the pandemic, which is expected reach one million by the end of 2020 in this age group.

To ride the wave of people realising the importance of digital skills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, techUK is encouraging the government to do more to inspire people to improve their digital skills. Cisco, which helped techUK with its survey results, has recently helped the Department for Education develop a skills toolkit aimed at helping people access free courses to work on their digital skills.

The courses are aimed at three different levels – introductory, intermediate and advanced – and direct individuals to free courses and resources offered by third-party education providers such as The Open University, FutureLearn, the Good Things Foundation, Lloyds Bank, Google Digital Garage, Cisco Networking Academy, Accenture, the University of Leeds, and the Institute of Coding.

David Meads, CEO of Cisco UK and Ireland, said: “As we look to recover as a nation, technology has the power to accelerate the UK’s digital future, as well as bring strong economic and social benefits. There is a clear appetite across the UK to embrace the opportunity to learn digital skills, as individuals look to build a career for tomorrow.

“At this time, government, business and industry must provide leadership and guidance to ensure that everyone – regardless of age, background or ethnicity – is included in this digital future. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cisco Networking Academy has collaborated with the Department for Education on The Skills toolkit, a new online learning platform to help boost people’s skills while they stay at home.”

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