A new report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is suggesting that a crisis in “digital skills” is occurring within the UK, with the committee making a push for the government to move quickly in their efforts to fix the issue.
Research uncovered at least 12.6 million adults in the UK do not have basic computer skills. In addition, close to half that number, 5.8 million people, have never actually been on the internet.
While there is not one single definition of digital skills in existence, the committee noted that the general understanding is that the term refers to the ability to use computers and digital devices in order to access the internet, as well as the ability to code or create software, and the ability to critically evaluate media make informed choices while online concerning the content and services being used.
Education accounts for a portion of the problem, as the report found 65% of computer science teachers do not hold a degree that is relevant to the subject. In addition, the government has fallen short of computer science teacher hiring goal by 30%. The report also found issues concerning the hardware being used by students, with 22% of the IT equipment in schools found to be ineffective.
The report went on to say that around one in eight, or 13%, of computer science graduates are still unable to find employment six months after completing their degree program, writes Darren Allan for TechRadar.
The result of all these findings, the authors suggest, is a digital skills gap that the committee says is costing the UK at least $89.2 billion per year. These skills are not only necessary for jobs within the tech industry; it has been estimated that 90% of all jobs require some form of digital skill. The UK will need an additional 745,000 workers who have digital skills by 2017.
According to the committee, the gap is a long-standing weakness that needs to be fixed quickly by the government, adding that technical skills should be included in all apprenticeship programs rather than just those pertaining to the digital field.
“The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need. The Government deserves credit for action taken so far, but it needs to go much further and faster. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships,” said chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Nicola Blackwood.
The committee is now asking the government to release its “Digital Strategy” as quickly as possible. It states that businesses need to invest more in the skills of their employees, and that additional training is needed at all education levels.
A spokesperson for the government said that the government is aware of the need for technical skills, and plans to release its “Digital Strategy” shortly, which will explain how employers and individuals will be helped to access tools necessary for success in this area.