How is the digital skills gap affecting your business?

Written by Mark Wright on 26 March 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

It's still an issue for many businesses. Former Apprentice winner Mark Wright talks digital skills.  

Modern society is addicted to technology - yet a significant digital skills gap is rife throughout the business sector.

Over a quarter (26%) of business owners in England recently reported they do not have the basic digital skills required to advance their company, whilst 30% of small businesses in England had difficulty recruiting staff due to a critical lack in skillset.

Despite the intrinsic link between digital know-how and growth, 25% of small firms still do not believe that digital skills training will benefit their business.

So, what’s the solution? It may sound all too obvious, but the first step to bridging the gap in digital skills is accepting digital as an essential and crucial part to SMEs nationwide.

Digital and business

In recent years, we’ve seen some of the most innovative and exciting firms grow and develop as a result of digital and technological advances. The world’s largest taxi firm owns no taxis – and one of the world’s leading hospitality firms owns no hotels.

Digital has allowed firms to revolutionise their practises through technology and transform the way their customers interact with them.

Yet, both firms have grown into household names by simply harnessing the power of innovation and technology to offer something different, whilst directly engaging with their target audience through digital applications.

Furthermore, digital skills don’t just support business growth – skillsets such as cyber-security aid brand protection, preventing hackers from penetrating individual servers and stealing vital data.

Without cyber-security, organisations globally are subject to hacker threats, where, when successful, can leave organisations vulnerable for months, potentially affecting reputation and customer relations for the long term.

Education and skills development

So, where should we start? From school curriculums to employee training – digital is accelerating at an exponential rate, where education and skills development is key for keeping pace.

Government skills initiatives, such as the implementation of coding lessons into primary schools and plethora of digital skills apprenticeships now available for school leavers, enables young people to understand digital from an early age.

However, despite the positive impact these opportunities have for younger generations, schools are still failing to invest in sufficient digital training for their teachers, confirmed by a recent digital skills report, which revealed 'only 35% of ICT teachers hold a relevant qualification'.


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This evident focus on skills development in young people is failing to acknowledge those in existing job roles, leaving us to question how they will be able to fulfil the jobs of the future, without a real understanding of the advancing digital landscape?

Whilst some companies ignore the calls for digital training, others express concerns that 'their staff are too busy (25%), training is too expensive (21%) or the type of training desired is not available locally (16%).”

By making training more accessible and affordable with online platforms, workers can undertake courses from the office or around employment, whilst offering huge benefits to their employers for years to come.

The future

Digital has allowed firms to revolutionise their practises through technology and transform the way their customers interact with them. So just imagine what could change, and how the business sector could develop, if just 50% of employers offered digital skills development for existing staff members?

Let’s take the example of the financial sector: We’ve seen the emergence of digital banking apps, allowing customers to interact more deeply with their brand and unveil greater purpose to their services.

Changes like these have allowed industries to progress, and if your industry hasn’t made the leap to digital yet, it soon will. Rather than delay the inevitable, businesses need to pre-empt shifts in behaviour, be ready to adapt and position themselves at the forefront of the digital movement.

Ultimately, the message is clear and its simple – digital is changing our world each and every day, and it’s altering the business sector too. Those who fail to acknowledge this and aid employee development will be left behind.

 

 

About the author

Mark Wright is director of Climb Online and a former winner of BBC’s The Apprentice.

 

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