The UK government has announced that more than 4 million free digital skills training opportunities will be created as part of a Digital Strategy to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, and to ensure that everyone can participate in the digital economy.
The UK government wants to ensure that everyone has the skills they need to flourish in a digitally driven economy, but a recently published study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) paints a gloomy picture for employers looking to recruit individuals with strong digital skills. The report details the results of an international assessment of adults aged 16–65, measuring proficiency in key information-processing skills. Part of the study looked at the digital problem-solving capabilities of 215,000 adults in more than 40 countries against three proficiency levels, each with its own distinct criteria:
The OECD UK data indicates that 29.3% of 16–65 year-olds have proficiency Level 2, but only 5.7% have proficiency Level 3. This is slightly above OECD averages (25.7% and 5.4%), but noticeably below countries such as New Zealand (34.0% and 10.2%), Sweden (35.2% and 8.8%), and Finland (33.2% and 8.4%).
The UK government has committed to help adults who lack core digital skills to access training free of charge, like the approach taken for literacy and numeracy. Led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the strategy relies on pledges from private sector organizations:
In most countries and economies, proficiency in information-processing skills is positively associated with the probability of being employed and earning higher wages. Of concern to those developing digital transformation strategies will be the fact that a third of employed adults aged 16 to 29 have no work-related computer experience, and that most millennials, contrary to popular belief, have poor digital problem-solving skills. The OECD UK data suggest that only 6.6% of 16–24 year-olds possess Level 3 proficiency when it comes to problem solving in technology-rich environments, so relying on pledges and charity might not be the most deterministic route to future economic prosperity. Ovum's advice to proactive individuals – including business leaders and professionals – is to seek digital skills training as a matter of urgency, as this will undoubtedly influence future success and prosperity.
"Digital transformation initiatives hampered by poor ICT skills," IT0021-000194 (August 2016)
OECD (2016), Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Digital Economy 2025: Core Scenario, TE0009-001462 (October 2015)
Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Productivity & Mobility
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