If you’re reading a techUK blog it is probably safe to assume you agree that data driven places – places that gather, analyse and interpret data to inform decision making - are better placed than their counterparts at solving local problems. However, you may not have considered that one of the problems better addressed by data driven places is the problem of skills gaps.
According to a 2018 study by City and Guilds, nine out of ten employers struggle to recruit the skilled staff they need. A 2019 study by Robert Half UK said the skills shortage will cost SMEs on average around £145,000 in the next year and is expected to rise to more than £300,000 during the next five years.
Data driven places are better equipped to tackle these problems because they can help their citizens solve the problem of choice overload. Citizens are often confronted with this problem when faced with making an employment, training and learning decision. How does someone choose a career path when there are so many options available to them?
The Careers and Enterprise highlighted this problem in a recent study when they said, “Young people are not engaged in thinking about different career options because it appears too difficult. They are confronted with lots of information and little way to make sense of it.”
Some regions are taking a data driven approach to tackling this problem by structuring local employment and skills data around the individual and around the economic needs of the region. They are using public and private sector open data to help citizens better understand what it means to work in a sector, how many opportunities are available, what they can expect to earn, what hours they can expect to work, what the growth or decline in the sector is projected to be etc. Although this data is available from multiple sources, it is virtually impossible for a citizen to find it and make sense of it. Places that do the hard work on behalf of the citizen by curating this data can give citizens the information they need to encourage them to consider employment or training into their economic priority areas.
In 2000 two psychologists exploring the consequences of limited choice vs. extensive choice did an experiment that sheds some light on this topic. They interchanged two jam stalls in the middle of a supermarket on two consecutive Saturdays. One jam stall had six options of jam on it and it represented the limited choice group. The other stall had 24 options of jam on it and it represented the extensive choice option. The extensive option of jams proved more attractive to passers by initially. However, the results showed that people were 10 times more likely to purchase a jam from the limited choice option.
The experiment tells us that people are more likely to make a decision when faced with less options. Data driven places can construct their data in such a way to make it easier to consume and ultimately easier to act upon. This will lead to less economic inactivity and increased activity in the areas that need it most.