Sunday, 13 June 2021

The UK’s ‘hidden middle’: 17m people lack sufficient digital skills

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 17 May 21

A new report published by FutureDotNow suggests that around a quarter of people in the UK lack the essential digital skills for work

FutureDotNow, a coalition of organisations including Accenture, BT, and Asda, has today released a new study showing that an alarmingly large portion of the UK public, 17.1 million people, do not have the digital skills to fully participate in the digital world.  The Essential Digital Skills (EDS) framework was devised by the UK government back in 2018…

FutureDotNow, a coalition of organisations including Accenture, BT, and Asda, has today released a new study showing that an alarmingly large portion of the UK public, 17.1 million people, do not have the digital skills to fully participate in the digital world. 

The Essential Digital Skills (EDS) framework was devised by the UK government back in 2018, based on five key skills required to participate and contribute to the digital world in life and at work: Communicating, Handling Information and content, Transacting, Problem solving, and Being safe and legal online.

According to report, around half of the UK workforce, which FutureDotNow describe as the ‘hidden middle’, lack the key skills laid out by the EDS framework, with only 23% of employees reporting having received any digital skills training from employers. In fact, according to IMD World Digital Competitiveness 2020 data, the UK is ranked 41st in the world for employee training.

As a result, this ‘hidden middle’ finds itself situated between digital exclusion and advanced digital skills, something which will becoming an increasing challenge for the UK as the worldwide digitalisation continues to accelerate. 

“FutureDotNow’s report reveals a hidden middle between digital exclusion and advanced digital skills which needs addressing urgently: there’s a significant part of our workforce without the essential digital skills required for the new global digital world we’re competing in,” explained Liz Williams, chief executive of FutureDotNow. “Great businesses are underpowered, like smartphones with a flat battery, because their workforces lack these essential digital skills.”

For FutureDotNow, the issue here is not so much a lack of available training in these skills, but rather a motivational gap, with people and organisations lacking an understanding of what really needs to be achieved through digital skills development. As a result, they are now launching a Playbook, aimed at helping organisations identify the EDS they are lacking and helping to upskill staff. 

Ultimately, FutureDotNow wants to see at least 75% of adults receive EDS training from their employer by 2024.

 

How can the UK tackle the digital skills gap to ensure growth? Find out from the experts at this year's live Connected Britain event

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