London has been named the world’s best city for students, but millennials are set to graduate without the skills needed for the digital economy.
Last month, London was ranked as the best city in the world for university students by the QS higher education data analysts. Followed closely by Tokyo and Melbourne, the capital came out on top, based on a myriad of factors, from the number of world leading universities, the local jobs market, the diversity of culture and quality of life.
Yet, the reality is that when they graduate, most of these students will lack the digital skills needed for them to thrive in this vibrant city.
The digital sector employs over 1.64m people and is growing twice as fast as any other sector with the industry contributing £97bn a year to the wider economy. The notion of a ‘tech company’ is becoming outdated as every company incorporates technology in one way or another.
This pace of change means there is now a need for continuous learning for students, graduates and workers, to keep up with the changing job market. Previous generations had a ‘job for life’ and could easily predict and train for future roles, but that isn’t a luxury afforded to young people today.
Organisations are not doing enough to bridge the digital skills gap and employees often have to move from company to company to find one that suits their training needs.
The reality is that now, the average shelf life of skills is less than five years, so we need to ensure the students and workers of today have learning opportunities at their disposal throughout their lives and careers.
The learning gap
According to the Barclays Digital Development Index, only 38% of UK workers are offered training in digital skills by their employers. Organisations are not doing enough to bridge the digital skills gap and employees often have to move from company to company to find one that suits their training needs.
Evidence has shown that the average employee doesn’t stay loyal despite office perks such as free food, dazzling offices, and yoga classes. In fact, 68% of them have changed jobs because of the lack of learning and development opportunities.
The bulk of recent graduates are millennials who, unlike the generation before them, are expected to work until they’re over 65 and many of whom will change jobs multiple times. As a result, an overwhelming majority of them recognise the need for lifelong learning and are willing spend their own time and resources on further training.
Learning as a perk
I believe it is not only the responsibility of business leaders to take to train people continuously but it is also going to be the way we compete for talent and a vital part of future-proofing business.
We need to start seeing learning as a vital piece of work life, offering it as a benefit or a perk. Just as we’d set out benefits in an employment package, we should demonstrate how our people will be able to learn and grow.
We need to ensure every business has a learning culture, with the right message coming from the top that investing time in personal and professional development is not only accepted but encouraged. Employees need to understand that they can and should take themselves away from their day-to-day job for to develop broader skills.
Companies should take action on learning just like they would any other employee benefit.
This can be done by putting a structure in place to make learning an official company perk and allowing employees to take advantage of it. In reality, this means that alongside your cycle to work scheme, gym benefits package and health insurance, employees would get a budget allocated for personal and professional development.
A lifelong investment
Companies and institutions must act to ensure all workers are equipped with the skills they need to thrive in today’s digital economy. I believe the investments people make in their personal and professional development today should be seen as just as important, if not more important than investments made into lifetime savings, like pensions.
Because whilst we’re putting away money for our retirement, we’re making little to no effort to contribute to our future skills, and that is going to be what keeps us and the economy productive and competitive.
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