We need more white-collar apprenticeships for digital skills

  •   3 min reads
We need more white-collar apprenticeships for digital skills

Following a report from Microsoft finding that that 69 per cent of UK leaders surveyed believe their organisation currently has a digital skills gap, a digital leadership expert has said that we need more university white-collar apprenticeships for digital skills.

There was good and bad lurking in the Microsoft report. On the plus side: "Leaders are increasingly aware of the need to address the skills gap, viewing enhanced technical capabilities and a digitally diverse talent pool as essential to economic recovery."
On the downside, however, the report found that:

  • “69 per cent of UK leaders surveyed believe their organisation currently has a digital skills gap,
  • Seventy per cent expect to experience one over the next year
  • More than two in five UK leaders (44per cent) fear that the current lack of digital skills within their organisation will have a fairly negative impact on their success in the next year.

But the report comes with a sting, finding that "Just 28 per cent of UK leaders believe the education system offers adequate digital training for pupils." And only 24 per cent "are confident that the UK government is doing enough to tackle the UK's digital skills gap."  

There is an innate problem here. It takes time to train a teacher — from learning to teaching is not a path that offers ready short cuts. But technology is changing so fast that what you learnt a couple of years ago may be of limited relevance today. So what people really need is basic skills, an adaptable mindset and learning infrastructure that is updated regularly.

The pandemic has added a whole new opportunity. Microdot cited Benjamin Franklin, 'out of adversity comes opportunity'.

James Minter, Partner at digital leadership search agency, Hannington Tame says:" The widening digital skills gap was of some concern pre-pandemic, the pace of change to working practices and urgent need to get businesses online has exacerbated the issue. Digital transformation projects have not only increased but also sped up, and while some organisations have adapted well, others are still struggling to meet today's demands."

"The world, as we know it today, did not exist before the iPhone launched in 2007. Instagram launched in 2010, and TikTok, which now has 800m users, launched in 2016. Thirty per cent of product searches now happen on Amazon and Google constantly changes its algorithm. Indeed, what businesses will be facing in 12 months will be very different to what businesses are facing today, so it's also crucial to have people that are adaptive and can keep pace with this rapid change."

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His remedy:

  • “There needs to be a greater understanding of  what digital skills are required for their company at the board level. Too many organisations don't see the full picture – although many are now dipping their toes in the water by hiring digital talent at a junior level. Digital leadership at C-level will be essential if organisations are going to succeed in the future. Those who are progressing with digital projects more successfully are those who have brought in digital skills at both a senior and junior level, and the more experienced      individual/s can also ensure upskilling is happening within the business."
  • “There needs to be a change at a grassroots level: "We need to see more university courses and white-collar apprenticeships emerging that cater for wider digital skills that will be  required in years to come.”

He concludes: "The Institute of Coding has a government-supported initiative, upskilling people in digital skills and there are many more similar schemes out there. Many business leaders are aware of the digital skills gap, but now is the time to act, close the skills gap, remain competitive and ensure business success in this rapidly evolving world."

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