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February 27, 2023updated 24 Feb 2023 4:22pm

Digital skills investment could boost UK GDP

The majority of employers are struggling to find adequately skilled employees to fill roles but investment in digital skills could boost the economy.

By Ryan Morrison

Investing in digital skills and improving the digital literacy of the workforce could raise the annual gross domestic product (GDP) in the UK by £67.8bn, according to a new report by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Gallup. The report revealed 11% of UK workers have advanced digital skills, with 72% of businesses having an open vacancy for workers with those skills.

Digital skills are needed to allow companies to embrace the technological trends and innovations (Photo: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock)

The findings come from a survey of 30,000 workers and 9,300 hiring managers in 19 countries including the UK, combined with Lightcast data on all advertised job vacancies in 33 countries between May 2021 and May 2022.

Despite a downturn in the economy, the number of job vacancies in tech, particularly for advanced digital skills including around cloud and cybersecurity, are rising. More than two-thirds of businesses find it challenging to hire the digital workers they need, and 45% say this is due to a shortage of qualified applicants.

The authors found that organisations able to integrate advanced digital skills, digital technologies and cloud computing power into their business or workflow realise rates of revenue growth notably higher than those not employing those solutions.

Backing this up, the team say that organisations running on the cloud are 55% more likely to have introduced a new product in the past two years and 45% more likely to have experienced steady or higher revenue growth than those not doing business on the cloud.

Outside of direct business benefit, the survey found that digital skills come with a salary boost, particularly cloud architecture, software development and machine learning, pumping an average income up by about 30% over those without specialist skills – or about an extra £11,500 per year.

Advanced skills in great demand

Those with advanced digital skills also reported a higher degree of job satisfaction to the researchers from Gallup when conducting the survey, at least when compared to the non-digitally skilled workers and among those advanced workers, training made them even more efficient in their work with half saying it improved opportunities to be promoted.

Among the 33% of UK workers who completed digital skills training in the past year, 99% told researchers their career had experienced at least one positive benefit as a result.

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The problem is there are barriers for workers in finding digital skills training. While 67% said they were “extremely interested” in digital skills training, 93% of them had at least one barrier to acquiring the training, including a lack of time, lack of financial resources or lack of knowledge.

In the report, the researchers said that companies need to be prepared not just to train for existing technology skills but for the hiring challenges of the future – with new disruptive technologies including cryptocurrency, generative AI and the metaverse developing at pace.

More than half of employers said one or more of 5G, cryptocurrency and the metaverse would become a standard part of their work in the future, with a third saying multiple technologies would become standard for their business.

The survey of workers confirmed there was a significant knowledge gap around emerging technologies that were driving the latest revolution in IT services. With a third having not even heard of some of the technologies, suggesting a need for urgent upskilling.

The tech sector accounts for 5.5% of the UK economy, and is expected to bring in £41.5bn by 2025 and generate thousands of jobs across both technology and non-technology companies. The problem comes from a lack of skills, holding back the growth in the sector, said Sheila Flavell, president of techUK in an article for Tech Monitor in November. “As it stands, technology innovation is developing at a faster pace than the skills needed to apply such technology.”

Read more: The UK’s digital skills gap badly needs fixing

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