UK ‘heading towards digital skills shortage disaster’

A think tank has warned that the UK is on the verge of a “catastrophic” digital skills shortage.

According to the Learning & Work Institute, the number of young people studying IT at GCSE has decreased by 40% since 2015. Meanwhile, consulting giant Accenture reports that demand for AI, cloud, and robotics skills is skyrocketing. According to experts, digital skills are critical for economic recovery following the pandemic.

According to the Learning & Work Institute’s research, 70% of young people expect employers to invest in teaching them digital skills on the job, but only half of the employers surveyed in the study are able to provide that training. Fewer than half of British employers believe that young people leave full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills, while 76% believe that a lack of digital skills would harm their profitability.

The report was commissioned by WorldSkills UK’s chief executive, Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann. The charity focuses on teaching young people digital skills in order to help them enter the workforce, as well as advising college teachers on international industry best practices.

According to him, there are four major reasons why the digital skills shortage is steadily increasing across the country:

  • a lack of clearly-defined job roles in certain fields
  • a lack of understanding and guidance about potential career paths
  • a lack of relatable role models
  • a difficulty in making many technical professions seem appealing to young people, especially young women

WorldSkills UK organizes a number of digital skill competitions in a variety of fields for young people of college age and up. Every year, approximately 15,000 young people compete in these competitions, which include free training to help them improve their skills.

Although tech job ad listings fell 57 percent in 2020, Accenture reports that demand for robotics skills has increased “dramatically” in several northern English cities since July – robotics jobs are up 115 percent in Liverpool, 253 percent in Leeds, and an astounding 450 percent in Newcastle.

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