Digital skills: Establishing a digital learning pathway
There is a growing mismatch in the demand and supply of digital skills in the UK, which will be accentuated by the economic fallout of COVID-19. Already, there are 2.9 million people unemployed in the UK and this number is likely to rise as the Government’s Job Retention Scheme winds down and the longer-term impacts of the economic lockdown surface. To put Britain back to work Government will need a flexible range of options that support different parts of the population with differing skills and experience, able to support a range of approaches from governance oversight to activist intervention. Whilst early indicators suggest that some sectors may experience a ‘V’ shaped recovery others will likely shrink in size on a more permanent basis necessitating career and sector switching.
techUK and Deloitte propose a solution that will help individuals identify effective digital learning pathways, thereby delivering a more effective training outcome. The UK Government is uniquely positioned to create a skills platform between citizens interested in entering the digital workforce, the training material and available roles. The need is for a solution that not only supports retraining of the technically savvy but is also able to map out a tailored learning journey for those wishing to enter the market but who may need significantly more support and guidance.
The Government has the credibility, profile and network to catalyse the creation of a trusted solution positioned at the centre of the digital skills ecosystem. It is able to take a strategic view, invest over an extended period, and create and maintain a gold standard for assessing human capabilities based upon the consolidation of existing frameworks, trusted by all parties in the digital marketplace.
Government stepped into this space with the creation of the Department for Education’s Skills Toolkit signposting individuals to high quality resources available online in digital and numeracy skills. The appetite for this type of signposting intervention was evidenced by the volume of uptake with hundreds of thousands of interactions in the first month alone.
As this paper demonstrates, the creation of a platform tailored to the individual – backed by Government, would deliver enormous benefits for employers and individuals alike. Individual learners would feel more confident in investing their time and energy in reskilling on a tailored pathway laid down by a platform backed by the Government. Employers meanwhile would benefit not only from a larger pool to recruit from but an ability to easily identify individuals with the skills (both human and technical) they are looking for from cohorts passing through the platform. Government’s involvement in building and maintaining such a platform would also allow it to leverage a significant quantity of data to develop an analytical understanding of the future digital skills pipeline enabling Government to better target interventions moving forward.
techUK does not propose this platform to be a holistic solution to the work Government will have to undertake to get the nation back to work post-COVID. However, we believe this solution is appropriate for a specific demographic who are motivated to learn and looking to reskill but not comfortable navigating the digital landscape.
techUK members already offer a plethora of online and in-person training, from basic digital skills right through to courses on the latest technological developments. We need to find a way to bring these initiatives together and increase the confidence people have investing their time in upskilling opportunities.
The COVID-19 crisis has underlined how important digital skills are to individuals, our communities, and our economy. At present however, there is no consistent approach to building these skills and ensuring that they will be available going forward or an innate acknowledgement that people are different and different people with the same digital skills will deliver different outcomes. We need stronger coordination between Government, industry and education providers to support the future talent pipeline. The Government now has an opportunity to use its credibility, profile and network to catalyse the creation of a trusted solution positioned at the centre of the digital skills ecosystem.
Nimmi Patel is the Policy Manager for Skills, Talent and Diversity at techUK.
She works on all things skills policy, focusing on upskilling and retrain. She is committed to embedding diversity in the UK tech pipeline from classroom to boardroom working with partners such as the Tech Talent Charter and the WISE Campaign. Nimmi also leads techUK’s immigration work, collaborating with techUK members and stakeholders to create an environment that attracts the best talent to the UK.
Prior to joining the team, she worked for the UK Labour Party and New Zealand Labour Party and holds a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Manchester and is currently studying MA Strategic Communications at King’s College London.
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