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June 13, 2016

UK faces digital skills crisis, 745,000 digitally skilled workers needed by next year

News: The digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an estimated £63bn per year in lost income.

By CBR Staff Writer

The UK’s ability to be competitive and productive on a global stage might be at risk if the digital skills crisis is not tackled urgently, MPs have warned.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee said in its report that digital exclusion has no place in 21st Century Britain.

The report found that 12.6 million adults in the UK don’t have basic digital skills, with nearly six million having never even used the internet.

Poor education and training was largely blamed for the skills gap, with 22% of school IT equipment found to be ineffective and outdated. Nearly two thirds of computer teachers don’t have a relevant qualification.

Even though the UK requires an estimated 745,000 additional workers with digital skills by 2017, the government had been able to recruit only 70% of the computer science teachers.

About 90% of new jobs need digital skills to some degree and nearly 72% of employers state that they are not interested in interviewing candidates who do not have basic IT skills.

The report estimates the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy around £63bn in lost income.

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Science and Technology Committee chairwoman Nicola Blackwood said: "The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need.

"The Government’s long-delayed Digital Strategy must now be published without delay, and it must deliver.

"The Government has to introduce a range of measures to help, particularly by expanding the scale of the apprenticeship programme and introducing a new computer curriculum in schools, but it needs urgently to present a vision and coherent strategy that brings these together."

The government published a Digital Inclusion Strategy in 2014, establishing a two-year time frame to reduce the number of people digitally excluded by 25%.

A recent research by the CBI and IBM has revealed that the British economy is being hit hard by an increasing digital divide, with 45% of companies falling behind in the adoption of digital technologies and processes.

Regina Moran, CEO of Fujitsu UK & Ireland, said: "It is a shocking, but unsurprising, finding that the UK will need another 745,000 workers with digital skills by next year. Our increasingly digitally-led business environment means that STEM and digital skills are essential in the UK, both within technology firms and virtually every other industry.

"To protect our future economy, we must encourage uptake of STEM subjects among schoolchildren, and government initiatives like the upcoming Digital Strategy are important. However, it’s clearly an issue that STEM subjects still suffer from an image problem. It’s often assumed that the only jobs that you can get with a degree in maths or engineering are highly technical, difficult and even dull.

"We must tackle these prejudices and showcase how exciting digital jobs can be, both within tech and other sectors. Technology is being used to address some of the most crucial issues in the world, and solutions are becoming ever more people-centric. Creativity and innovation can be as important as technical skill in fast-moving digital jobs that present new challenges every day. It is only by engaging a diverse array of young people in STEM that we can hope to protect the future competitiveness of the UK economy."

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