Digital skills gap 'costing the UK economy billions in lost growth', AND Digital report warns

Failure to solve the ‘digital skills gap’ could cost the UK economy up to £50bn per year in lost growth, a new report from AND Digital has warned.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents to AND Digital’s survey said that their growth expectations would be at risk if their digital ambitions did not materialise.

The digital skills gap refers to the lack of digital skills in the existing workforce, which falls short when compared to what it is estimated will be needed in coming years.

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AND Digital’s report estimates that a UK workforce of eight million individuals proficient in digital skills is needed to help close the gap.

James Locker from AND Digital. Picture: Will AlmotJames Locker from AND Digital. Picture: Will Almot
James Locker from AND Digital. Picture: Will Almot

James Locker, head of AND Digital’s Leeds office, noted how making people aware of the issue, and its complexities, is a key step in solving the skills gap.

He said: “I don’t think it's a new problem, but what the report has highlighted is that we should be trying to get it as well known and as well founded as we can, so we can all start to build a narrative around it.

“If we can begin to make a mark on that perspective we at least might stand a chance.”

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The research also revealed many of the negative effects that a lack of digital skills is having on UK workers.

More than one-quarter (26 per cent) of ‘knowledge’ workers said they did not seek or achieve a promotion due to a lack of digital skills.

A total of 13 per cent said they had applied for training outside their organisation, while 11 per cent said they had been made to change career.

Of those asked, 11 per cent said a lack of digital skills had made them think of quitting, and 10 per cent said they had been turned down for job opportunities.

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The report highlights that the digital skills gap is felt by the majority of UK knowledge workers, with 58 per cent reporting it having an influence, a figure which rose to 59 per cent in Leeds.

Mr Locker noted how tackling the digital skills gap should be a national, not regional effort.

“I think what we’ve got to do is not isolate it just to a region,” he said.

“I think we’ve got to be sharing what these problems are and how we come through them.

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“We need the ability for organisations and businesses and people to collaborate and get together and share on problems, as opposed to thinking one organisation can have the right answer and they’ve got to keep it a secret.

“That's what the report is trying to highlight and showcase, that not one person is going to resolve this, not one business is going to resolve this, we collectively need to come together and face it.

“Now is the time to change, and for us to collectively recognise that we’ve got to do something a bit different.”

Upskilling is seen as a key way of tackling the digital skills gap.

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The report found, however, that almost six in 10 workers say they have never received digital upskilling from their employer.

Over a quarter of respondents also said their company does not offer any digital upskilling at all, with 21 per cent of people in Leeds noting this.

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