Rising to the digital skills challenge
London Technology Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey on why digital skills are not only important to individuals but critical for the health of the UK economy.
The UK Government’s ambition is clear. We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do digital business; where citizens have safe, secure access to excellent digital services; and where their transactions with the state are faster, cheaper and easier.
But this will only be possible if the workforce of today, as well as the one of the future, is properly equipped with the necessary digital skills. Recent research reveals that within the next 20 years the overwhelming majority of all jobs will require at least a basic level of digital skills. It is estimated that by 2023, at least one million new digital roles will have been created in the UK. The challenge we now face is making sure that supply keeps up with demand.
Tackling the shortage
So Government is taking action at a national level to address the digital skills challenge from children in school to adults of all ages in the workforce.
We’re making the teaching of coding a core part of the primary school curriculum, making England the first country in the world to mandate coding at primary and secondary level. We have also introduced more rigorous school qualifications, and taken steps to make sure that computer science apprenticeships and degrees meet the needs of employers. The new Ada National College for Digital Skills will be at the heart of providing cutting edge higher vocational training.
We’re also establishing the Institute for Coding - a £20 million joint collaboration between universities and businesses - which will help demonstrate and spread excellent standards in higher level digital skills provision.
Digital apprenticeships are also hugely important and are growing at a rate more than double the UK average. The digital degree apprenticeships we’ve helped set up - integrating apprenticeships with a university degree - has been another success with 300 starting last year, looking set to double this year.
What next? Government’s Digital Strategy
Across Government, we’ve been working on a new Digital Strategy that we expect to publish this summer. This will set out our plans during the course of this Parliament to make sure the UK remains at the forefront of the digital revolution. It will look at how we are going about transforming the digital economy, digital society and digital government.
Digital skills underpin all of these goals though, as along with digital connectivity and online security, they are the foundation and building blocks necessary for digital transformation.
We know that digital skills enhance business growth, innovation and broader social development - and are becoming increasingly important in nearly all jobs - as well as in a tech industry that is growing more than three times the pace of the rest of the economy. The importance of developing digital skills, not only for the current generation, but for the next one too, cannot be underestimated.