During London Tech Week, techUK hosted a webinar with global colleagues to speak about the work being done across the world to increase the uptake of digital skills. The expert panel included:
- Amy Chestnutt, Business Development Director for GB, Invest Northern Ireland
- Vincenzo Renda, Senior Policy Manager for Digital Industrial Transformation, DIGITALEUROPE
- YC Choy, Regional Vice President, Economic Development Board of Singapore
- Amit Aggarwal, VP & CEO, IT-ITES sector skills council and co-architect Future Skills platform, NASSCOM
- Nimmi Patel, Policy Manager, Skills, Talent & Diversity, techUK (Moderator)
The importance of digital skills
The panellists engaged in an insightful discussion around approaches to digital skills challenges in their particular national and international contexts. There was consensus that a digital skills pipeline is key to sustainable economies across the world, with a need to ensure that citizens increase their understanding of the potential of technology across sectors, and of the technology itself, to drive uptake as well as increase levels of trust.
Each of the speakers spoke openly about the myriad digital skills initiatives being undertaken in their respective regions. In the European Union context, Finland’s Elements of AI course, which aimed to teach 1% of the Finnish population basic AI skills, managed to elicit uptake far beyond its initial objective, with the course now also accessible to other EU citizens.
Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, the Assured Skills programme – funded by the Department for Education – works with businesses to provide pre-employment training programmes that equip citizens with the knowledge and training that employers are looking for.
Subsidised programmes targeted at upskilling and reskilling those already further along in their career have been taken forward in Singapore, alongside a wider career platform that seeks to enable citizens to map their own career and lifelong learning pathways.
India plans to launch a new emerging technologies initiative drawing inspiration from such exemplary global models, whilst NASSCOM has already created a FutureSkills platform for its members covering a range of technological skills for roles in areas from AI to 3D printing as well as some other non-tech skills.
Throughout the discussion, the increasing use of tech in other fields and the intersection of competences required for new and emerging roles was a common theme. As tech becomes an integral part of work in sectors such as health, sustainability and financial services, there is an imperative to foster cross-pollination between tech and other areas in our approach to skills to ensure people have the knowledge to drive forward progress and help realise the full potential of technology.
Panellists also emphasised the need to be inclusive and take action to bridge the digital divide – particularly in the context of COVID-19 – by investing in digital connectivity infrastructure to address gaps between urban and rural communities, for example, or funding initiatives which focus on helping disadvantaged people begin remote working jobs.
Collaboration is key
The key takeaway from the conversation was an overwhelming need for collaboration. Speakers drew attention to the plentiful work being done around the world bringing together the public and private sector – including stakeholders from across industry, governments, academia, employers, training providers and local authorities – to create effective, relevant initiatives which draw on this wide range of expertise and perspectives to address digital skills challenges in context.
Open skills and career platforms were raised as another means of cultivating such collaborative work, affording the potential to bring in different players from across the ecosystem who may otherwise never cross paths.
The discussion also emphasised the need to collaborate internationally, sharing learning across borders and offering examples of best practice which can be implemented elsewhere to address the global digital skills challenge.
Moving forward together
To increase the uptake of digital skills and create the digital skills pipeline that is desperately needed as economies across the world embrace digital transformation, working together with international partners, and across sectors, is essential. In countries and regions across the world, great steps are being taken to address the digital skills challenge and it is integral that learning and experiences are shared if we are to equip people with the skills they need to meet the demands of the digital economy of the future.