The digital landscape has and will continue to integrate itself into the daily lives of the UK workforce; accelerating the demand for employees to regularly update their skills and for employers to recruit workers who possess the digital skills in demand.
The current UK workforce lacks the essential digital skills needed for the workplace, but digital transformation practices have encouraged and somewhat put businesses and leaders under pressure to remain relevant in the current climate where digital automation plays a big part in business processes.
Whilst there is a current demand for UK employees to be well-equipped with the necessary digital skills, a report by Lloyds Bank suggests that 60% of UK workers don’t want to learn new skills.
The 2023 Consumer Digital Index by Lloyds revealed:
7.5 million (18%) people who do not have the required digital skills for the workplace.
24 million people (60%) are not at all interested in upskilling for the future.
Businesses that plan to adopt more of a digitally-focused workforce will not find these statistics encouraging. Findings also concluded that only 12% of the entire UK workforce is considering learning cybersecurity skills. Now, with cyber security being among the top concerns for UK businesses throughout 2023, this finding will come as a concern.
Despite a lack of enthusiasm from the majority of the UK workforce for learning new digital skills, there was some encouragement from the report.
33 million (82%) of the UK labor force now have Work Essential Digital Skills (EDS), up from 78% in 2022. Four in 10 UK workers are considering upskilling in at least one area of digital, with data analysis and productivity software skills the most popular areas for learning.
How can the UK tackle this?
Rob Benson, Project Manager - Digital Inclusion, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, expressed his concern based on the findings of the report saying: "As we're seeing the movement within the labor market to more digital technologies, AI and automation, people are going to need more advanced level digital skills."
A solution to tackling this attitude could be making learning digital skills compulsory at school level, as well as the government working with education services to promote the need for digital skills. Whilst the UK workforce and young people may not see the necessity for digital skills, social media use is at an all-time high; with platforms such as Instagram and TikTok gaining the most popularity.
The feedback from Jan Levy, Managing Director of Three Hands, is that the aorganisation hears a lot from younger people who want to learn from a YouTube video or on TikTok. He said: “These resources need to be made available. If somebody's connected enough to be on YouTube but not connected or savvy enough to do other things, that is a way of learning that people are calling for.
It's getting people to understand that it is an evolving journey and that is across not just skills in the labor market but also for digital overall. It's something that evolves and needs to adapt to new technology, as we migrate onto new platforms and services and need to have the support to enable people alongside that change.”
Learning can be constructed in a way that suits the learner; this could involve fun activities via social media channels to keep younger learners engaged whilst learning about the necessity for digital skills. As a result, this could improve the overall attitude towards continuous learning.
The UK Digital divide
The skills gap that currently exists in the UK is apparent, and Lloyds’ report revealed huge gaps in digital capability around the UK; particularly among older generations.
96% (50 million) of the UK population is online – defined as having used the internet in the last three months – this is down from 2022 when 99% were online.
A quarter of the UK has the lowest digital capability, and of these 13 million people, 70% of them are 60 years and over.
The shift towards digital practices in the UK has had a significant impact on older generations. As the requirement to use digital to complete specific activities has increased, this leaves older generations without the necessary digital skills struggling to complete online or digital tasks.
Program Manager at Age UK, Sarah Parkes has called for more training and support to be offered and to consider that the older generation are “feeling a little frustrated about things moving online and they're wanting to learn more generally to try and help maintain some of their independence.”
The UK does have an issue when it comes to digital skills, however, in order to tackle the skills gap in certain workplaces, there will need to be a shift in mindset amongst the UK in general. The authorities and workplaces must continue to push the importance of digital skills, but workforces must understand the need for it; as well as being open to continuous learning.