Digitization is changing the skills people need for jobs. New digital tools continue to materialize for traditional workplace tasks, and technology-based job opportunities are on the rise, from cloud computing specialists to digital marketing and data analyst roles.
We need to prepare today’s students for the world of work they will enter, ensuring that those already working have the skills they need in the future. The world of technology is famous for its sheer innovative nature. How can we best prepare tomorrow’s workers today?
What is the problem?
In the next 10-20 years, 90% of jobs some form of digital skills will be required to apply for or obtain a position. Millennials and Gen Z are often assumed to have the necessary skills; they have been surrounded by technology from a young age. But the skills students use in their social lives are often different from the skills needed at work. We also need to consider the future of people who are already working, looking atin, on today’s workforce 11.8 million people (36% of the UK workforce) currently lack the basic digital skills needed for work and employees will need support to continue to learn new technologies as the digital world evolves.
With a focus on individuals currently learning, the challenge for teachers is to know what digital skills to teach to prepare students for success. But this is a question that many businesses have not yet answered for themselves. According to a recent the report from the Professional and Business Services Board (PBSC) and the Financial Services Skills Commission there is a clear lack of forecasting of future skills. Few of the employers PBSC spoke to have engaged in true strategic workforce planning or are thinking about their skills needs 1-2 years into the future. So business needs to help teachers better show what digital skills are needed in the future.
Why is this important?
While the job search will of course always be about more than just digital skills, technical skills will open up more employment opportunities. Basic digital skills are already critical to many roles and, especially with the recent shift to virtual work, there has been a huge increase in the number of positions available for people with advanced skill sets such as software developers and engineers. Since 2014 there was an increase of 320%. in the number of jobs wanting to speak Microsoft C# in the legal services sector, and a 1000% increase in demand for Python in the accounting and auditing industry. These figures highlight how the labor market is developing.
Moreover, digital skills enable more than just finding a work, but find valuel work. For those interested in technology, having the right skill set can create opportunities to work in a field that supports communities in tackling climate change or health issues. For example, people can work on projects like Sogeti Sweden Geo Satellite Intelligence solution. The proposal combines artificial intelligence, satellite imagery and advanced algorithms to create detailed maps that show the development of spruce bark beetles, which annually destroy large tracts of forest. The solution allows for quick management of damaged trees. In addition, individuals can be part of initiatives such as “I’ll Always Be Me” led by Rolls-Royce and several project partners. The project uses technology to help those living with motor neurone disease by creating a digital voice that can be used on any assistive speech device to communicate with others.
What can be done?
Businesses and educators need to work more closely together to ensure future job candidates have the digital skills they need for work. The digital skills shortage affects all companies in the sector. Therefore, it is in the business interest to share the insights and skills needed to train students and the existing workforce.
One way companies can help is by working proactively with educators to help shape curricula—so that the skills taught set students up for long, healthy careers. An example of such an initiative is Capgemini’s partnership with CodeYourFuture. The nine-month training program for people aged 18 and over helps trainees learn real-world digital skills such as coding, alongside communication skills to boost employability confidence. In addition to sponsoring internship placements, Capgemini is helping CodeYourFuture tailor the curriculum based on the technology skills the company predicts will be needed in the tech industry in the future. An important element of the initiative is that it aims to provide access to digital skills training for those who may not otherwise be able to participate in education, such as refugees or other people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are cut off from the market work.
Another option for educators and companies is to collaborate by participating in multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at addressing the digital skills gap. Such organizations as Digital Poverty Alliance actively seek to collaborate and share knowledge in different fields with the aim of helping organizations share best practices in the fight against digital poverty. They are recent Tech4Teachers project, in partnership with Intel and Barclays, aims to fund 550 laptops for teachers across the UK to support disadvantaged communities. Equipping teachers with devices will help them support students and ultimately build digital skills among students. The Career and enterprise is another example of an organization that seeks to connect business with educators to provide students with employable skills.
The future of work will depend on digital progress, and the UK is already facing digital skills shortage. Business and educators must work together, in unison, to prepare a workforce with the skills needed for the future – so that people can access the opportunities they are interested in and companies can hire the skill sets they need. Fostering open dialogue, including through the exchange of ideas that help adapt curricula, is a good start.
Pa Sally Caughey, UK Head of Digital Inclusion, Capgemini
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