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Closing the digital skills gap

It’s been recently reported that the UK is heading towards a ‘digital skills shortage disaster', which could also delay our economic recovery from COVID-19. 

This means that there is a huge demand for employees with digital skills, however, many employers are struggling to find people with the skills they need, and a recent report shows that it begins at school. 

The tech and IT industry  

The Learning & Work Institute has found that the number of young people taking IT subjects at GCSE level has dropped 40% since 2015. 

This is sad as it is surprising, at a time when the IT industry as a whole has shown great strength and resilience, continuing to grow despite the global pandemic over the last 12 months. In fact, of the top 10 most in-demand jobs in the UK in 2021, 7th is a software engineer, coming in just after the jobs we’ve recently classed as key-worker roles, such as a delivery driver and store manager.  

Perhaps we all need a bit more education on tech jobs - they span masses of industries, not just ‘tech’, including IT companies, tech start-ups, financial services, manufacturing, public sector and retail.  

Tech jobs are on the rise and it’s important we do all we can to educate ourselves and our next generation on the huge opportunity they have in front of them.  

How do we ensure the next generation have the digital skills required? 

Young people recognise that digital skills are important in order for them to succeed, however that is not being translated into their education and development choices. This raises the question, do they know about the amazing jobs that are out there, waiting for them? 

Learning from young 

So much of what teens know now, they learnt from a young age – two-year-olds today know how to unlock mobile phones, toddlers are iPad obsessed and many kids are hooked on their Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo Switch. Did you know that there is an ever-increasing number of jobs that could use these skills and develop these passions? 

There are currently jobs available that simply didn’t exist ten years ago. Today, young people can aspire to be artificial intelligence engineers which are in huge demand, data scientists or games designers, some of these jobs can pay in the region of £60,000 per annum and upwards! 

Whilst the rise of tech is a concern for many parents when it comes to their kids and the negative aspects, such as a heavy reliance or too much screen time, we know from looking at the various stages of tech adoption that we are certain to have a huge wave of innovators on our hands. This is not only beneficial for the kids of the future and their families, but beneficial for the UK market as a whole too. These skills and attributes could help make the perfect candidate for some of the world’s most exciting jobs.  

Whilst ‘Information Technology’ might sound boring to a 12-year-old, it’s important we shine a light on what skills will be developed whilst studying this kind of subject, and where it might take them in the future. We should be encouraging an interest in IT and embracing our youngsters’ natural flair for anything techy.  

Extracurricular learning  

Another way to help your child develop and build upon their existing hobbies is extracurricular learning. There are a range of courses for kids that can supplement their existing school curriculum and develop high-demand skills, such as Junior Artificial Intelligence, Digital Music Production or Video Game Design. If your child is obsessed with Minecraft like many others are, did you know they can study a short course, Minecraft Maker, where they can learn more and take their passion to the next level? 

It’s important that we don’t solely rely on what the kids are taught at school, and we find other ways to help educate and shape young people. With the internet at the tip of their fingers, new software and games being released constantly and online courses to study at home, we have more than one option to help bring our kids up to speed, in addition to those more traditional IT subjects at school.  

With experts saying digital skills are vital to economic recovery following the pandemic, and the endless IT/tech job opportunities that can be found in the tech industry and beyond, it’s time we tackle this problem and set the next generation up to excel!  

Sources: Learning and WorkBBC newsThe GuardianGlassdoorProspectsIT Job Board. 

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Closing the digital skills gap