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Brits feel lack of digital skills holds firms back

Almost half of employers think UK firms would be more productive if there was a higher level of digital skills

UK employers believe a lack of digital skills among employees is preventing productivity and holding firms back.

Research by Barclays found 47% of UK employers think their firm would be more productive if the level of digital skills in employees was higher.

To bridge this gap, firms are investing an annual average of £109 per employee in digital skills training, despite 34% of employers claiming they find it difficult to implement upskilling initiatives.

Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays UK, said: “The digital revolution is having a profound effect on our lives by dramatically changing the way we live, work and interact with one another.

“Although in many ways this is empowering, it can also be challenging, because it requires people and businesses to acquire, retain and consistently develop skills and understanding to truly benefit.”

All sectors are currently demanding digital skills, but many UK adults still don’t have internet access, with the older generation claiming nothing will encourage them online.

In many cases, organisations are relying on digitally savvy younger employees, with 40% of employers admitting their organisation bypasses upskilling mid-level employees because younger digitally able employees can take the reins.

Employers think older employees have difficulties with technology, as 45% of firms say older employees are slow in picking up digital skills.

Staff also feel there is a skills deficit in their organisations, with 59% of employees scared that they will be replaced by a younger employee with better digital skills.

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Data security was a top digital skill for 27% of employers, stating that knowledge of data and device protection is a necessary skill in new employees, with analysing large datasets a close second.

But although younger employees may have an awareness of technology, many do not class cyber security as their top priority.

A third of employers thought very few of their staff had the skills needed to properly fulfil their role, and social media, cloud and collaborative tools all came high on the list of skills employers expect employees to have.

However, only 19% of employers claimed they would be upping the amount of investment made into digital skills over the next five years.

Vaswani said: “Together with government, businesses and society as a whole, we need to raise our sights beyond basic inclusion and aim to create a Britain of true digital confidence at all levels of the workforce. We are at a tipping point when it comes to digital skills and the UK must act now to ensure we are not left behind.”

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This head-desk moment should have been far more obvious. Of course employees would be more productive with better digital skills. Far too many companies everywhere have put education and training far behind greater output and immediate profits. The solution is unlikely to be the Brit paltry annual investment of per employee. And this is far from only a uniquely UK problem.
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This is the role of Tech Partnership, a government-industry initiative in UK to address this. Such organisations are founs in every country. They are doing a great job I think. This problem is in all European countries, and there is no pointing fingers here. The industry must be convinced to participate and government must help. In the end this will benefit the whole country and Europe.
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