18 December 2017 Consumer Affairs Tech Trends

The Digital Skills Gap: A postcode lottery?

Digital skills is currently a hot topic in the UK. The news agenda has been filled with a variety of views and reports, especially from Chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn budget statement. According to research from Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College – commissioned by Amazon – around 80% of rural firms said they see online tools as key to their future growth prospects, but more than half complained of a lack of digitally-savvy staff and training opportunities. This led us to think, does your postcode matter when it comes to accessibility of digital technology and skills? In our latest blog, we take a look at the digital skills gap and its impact on the UK.

Digital skills

Meeting the Digital Challenge

Preconceptions of farming may depict basic machinery – the modern-day reality is very much different. Innovation and technology has a major part to play in farming, with some farming businesses using global-leading technology to streamline, improve efficiencies and maintain business stability. That said, the digital skills gap is apparent and challenging rural industries. According to the research findings, one fifth of the 800 companies asked said they struggled to find the right staff and that their existing workforce didn’t have the necessary digital skills. In addition, almost two thirds of firms said cloud computing was key to their future growth, followed by 5G mobile networks on 54%, the Internet of Things on 47% and machine learning and Artificial Intelligence on 26%.

Based on recent news stories, it seems as if rural communities are not alone experiencing the digital skills gap. The Federation of Small Businesses has called on the Government to tackle the digital skills shortage in smaller firms or risk stalling productivity. So irrelevant of postcode, it seems as if there is a gap between the digital skills and technology required, and what is readily available.

Digital Skills 101

What are the top digital skills in demand? Here are three skills that are in demand, a definition and where you can go to help build your knowledge and polish-up on your skillset.

  • Coding – ‘the process of assigning a code to something for classification or identification’. Lots of household names are getting involved in promoting coding, and encouraging people to learn it as part of their basic skills, like reading and writing. Apple provides free coding for children in store. There are many places where you can learn to code – some are free including Codeacademy, Freecodecamp and GA Dash.
  • Cybersecurity – ‘the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorised access’. As an industry, cybersecurity is a hot investment with people looking to it in order to invest in the latest technology. The Open University has a course for beginners.
  • Data analytics – ‘qualitative and quantitative techniques and processes used to enhance productivity and business gain. Data is extracted and categorised to identify and analyse behavioural data and patterns, and techniques vary according to organisational requirements’. Research firm IDC predicts big data spending will reach $48.6 billion by 2019 with large tech enterprises such as Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, EMC, HP and Dell continuing to invest in big data and large-scale data analytics. You can enrol on a 6-week course to become a data scientist.

As you reflect on 2017 and put together your 2018 New Years’ resolutions, consider how you would look to your current or future employer simply by adding a digital skill to your CV?   With lots of free options available, and a real thirst from business owners for digitally skilled savvy team members, it makes sense to get trained up in order to become more appealing to business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, ultimately making you stand out from the crowd.

Written by Holly Forrest, Cherish PR

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