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December 13, 2017

1 in 4 UK SMEs say digital skills ‘not important for growth’

FSB's survey revealed low confidence in the government's proposed T level work placements.

By CBR Staff Writer

A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that concerns over cyber security and barriers to training are holding back at least one in five SMEs.

Shockingly, one in four small businesses do not consider digital skills to be important to the growth of their business, while a further 26% lack confidence in basic digital skills. More than a fifth (22%) of start-up bosses put their company’s lack of digitisation down to a lack of rudimentary digital knowhow among their staff.

While 2017 witnesses the rise of WannaCry and NotPetya, 2018 is unlikely to see a reduction in cybersecurity attacks. In fact, the Identify Theft Resource Centre reported a year-on-year rise in data breaches in 2016. Unfortunately, concerns about cybersecurity are an impasse for 21% of SME leaders on the road to becoming more digital.Skills gap

Researchers discovered that not only is the SME workforce lacking in some digital capabilities, but a quarter of business leaders felt that their employees were too busy to be able to attend training. A concerning one in five (21%) said that training is too expensive, which is particularly problematic given that one in three companies have noticed a skills shortage when recruiting.

“Technical skills are the lifeblood of many small firms,” said the report. “However, refusal to engage with the digital future will almost certainly lead many to miss out on reaching new audiences and customers and being more successful as a result.”

Analysts at FSB recommend leveraging new government initiatives to boost digital skills among the SME workforce. For instance, researchers recommend apprenticeship levy-paying businesses should prioritise transferring apprenticeship vouchers to small businesses in their supply chain, sector or community.

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FSB’s survey also revealed disappointing levels of confidence in the government’s proposed T level work placements; just 6% of small businesses said they would be prepared to offer work placements as they are currently proposed.

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Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Productivity is being hampered by nagging skills shortages which are making recruitment a nightmare for small firms. As the UK moves towards Brexit, a technical skills black hole threatens the economy. Small firms tell us that technical skills are crucial to the future growth of their businesses. The clock is ticking to tackle the ever-widening skills gap.”

Verge surveyed 1,203 small businesses who were members of FSB in England between 14 August and 1 September 2017 on behalf of FSB.

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