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Digital skills are not only becoming increasingly important for day-to-day life, but are also becoming so prolific in the workplace that many argue most roles need some knowledge about tech.
Despite its importance, many adults in the UK still don’t have basic digital skills, making it more important than ever for young people to be properly educated in digital.
This year saw some difficulties for both IT recruitment and tech education as the pandemic forced people to work and learn from home by utilising technology, shining a light on the importance of digital skills going forward.
But some of 2019’s most learned skills do not match up with the most demanded skills this year – SQL was the most popular software development skill, HTTP was the top IT ops skill, for data the top skill was Microsoft SQL Server, and in security CISSP was a must-have.
At the BETT education show in January 2020, then universities minister Chris Skidmore claimed Brexit would present an opportunity for the UK to develop “global collaboration” around areas such as education technology (edtech).
Days before the UK officially withdrew from the European Union, Skidmore said the UK should use Brexit as an opportunity to develop partnerships with others in the edtech sector to begin developing technologies that might solve common problems, such as teachers’ workload and cheating by students.
As the UK withdrew from the European Union, the government began to outline plans for immigration of skilled workers into the UK.
The government announced a points-based immigration system that will award points to applicants based on certain criteria, such as skills, qualifications, salaries, professions and the ability to speak English, with the aim of ensuring only the most skilled people come to work in the UK.
Changes were also made to the Global Talent route for highly skilled workers to allow very talented people to enter the UK without a job offer if they meet the requirements for a visa and are endorsed by a relevant competent body. Tech Nation, the endorsing body for the digital technology route of the UK’s Global Talent Visa, saw an increase in applications in 2020.
As people were forced to stay at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the technology divide became incredibly apparent, with some coping well or learning new skills in lockdown while others struggled to adapt to using digital means to carry out day-to-day tasks.
To find out more about the digital skills implications of the pandemic, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Skills launched a call to action to find out if lessons learned in lockdown could help build digital skills policy in the future.
The group asked for organisations to share what issues they had faced during the pandemic, how they have adapted to these issues, and what recommendations could be made for policymakers to increase digital skills in the future.
As the pandemic forced many to work and learn from home, in many cases by taking advantage of digital tech, people began to realise the importance of technology skills.
Many adults became interested in further developing their digital skills, and some even said their confidence with digital tech increased after using technology during lockdown restrictions.
As the year went on, it became clear the shift towards working from home might last longer than first predicted, with some companies saying their employees could work from home indefinitely if that’s what they want to do.
This sparked questions about the future of large offices and technology hubs such as London, where a lot of the UK’s tech talent resides – will tech talent continue to flock to the capital if office working makes way for more flexible jobs?
When it became clear the coronavirus outbreak would be ongoing, the decision was made to cancel exams for the 2020 academic year, with results being decided using a combination of teacher recommendation, non-examined assessments, school data and data from previous years.
Despite this method leading to many concerns and complaints about grades, students performed well, seeing the number of students achieving high A-level grades in computing increasing year-on-year and high grades for GSCE computing in England.
Hiring during the pandemic was unpredictable, with some industries suffering due to ongoing lockdowns, while others thrived.
Large numbers of IT workers admitted to being worried about losing their jobs during the pandemic, and some firms are being cautious with budgets until certainty returns.
Despite initial concerns about IT jobs and recruitment, the number of advertised roles in the sector increased towards the end of the year.
Tech Nation and the government’s Digital Economy Council found digital jobs account for about 9% of the UK workforce, and adverts for job roles in technology and digital in the UK increased by 36% between June and September 2020.
The end of the year brought positive news for the tech sector as research by CWJobs found a large number of people outside of the industry are now considering a tech career.
The job board found more than half of non-tech people looking for a career shift would consider, or are already making the leap into, a tech-based career.