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DMI Daily Digest

4 Things Educators Need to Know to Address the Digital Skills Shortage

By now, we all know that there is a substantial and growing shortage of digital skills across industries and continents. The question for educators isn’t if demand exists for digital know-how, it’s how to provide the high-quality training that professionals need and businesses want.

As organizations continue to integrate digital across their business, the key challenge is the scale and speed of change. Due to this pace, many professionals already in roles, along with recent graduates looking for career opportunities, are not qualified to drive the digital needs of businesses.

In essence, the challenge is that companies are finding it difficult to become digitally mature, while individuals with the ‘right’ skills are experiencing fierce competition for their expertise and salary increases a third above the national average.

So, why aren’t today’s professionals adequately prepared for the majority of roles available and how can educators change that? In this article, we look at 4 things you need to understand to know how to address (and make an opportunity from) the ever present and growing digital skills shortage.

1) Demand outpaces supply

56% of firms expect digital will lead to more and better employment opportunities

As we enter an industrial revolution of the digital kind, it’s clear that employees, business owners, and thought leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about the digital skills shortage.

Competition for talent will become even tougher as over half of talent acquisition leaders say their hiring volume will increase in 2017. When it comes to digital expertise the demand just keeps growing as advertisements for digital jobs across non-digital industries grew by 34% in just three years between 2012 and 2015 according to Burning Glass.

The pervasive nature of digital now means that its reach goes beyond one department and permeates across a business. So, while marketers need to keep abreast of digital technologies to provide an exceptional customer experience, the IT department needs digital know-how to understand how the data they collect can be fed through the company to drive business success. While those working in HR need to possess skills to harness the power of social networks and digital channels to engage with a digitally savvy workforce, journalists once tied to traditional forms, need to understand how to engage with digital platforms and take advantage of the real-time nature of reporting.

No stranger to innovation and often a market disrupter, Virgin believes that the digital revolution poses a £92 billion opportunity if firms fully develop and invest in their digital potential. If investments in digital are made and digital capabilities improved, the company believes UK companies will create more than one million new jobs over the next two years. Food for thought in a market already stretched for digital expertise.

2) People are worried about robots

People are worried about robots | 4 Things Educators Need to Know to Address the Digital Skills Shortage

As automation gains ground through AI and deep learning, it’s proving its worth as a money saver and efficiency driver. According to McKinsey, currently demonstrated technologies could automate 45% of the activities people are paid to perform while about 60% of all occupations could see 30% or more of their constituent activities automated.

As a result, many professionals are feeling the pressure particularly in certain sectors such as logistics, retail, accountancy, finance and manufacturing who face a high risk of computerisation.

However, this is not the first time the issue of computers replacing humans has raised its head. In the 1960’s when computers started to appear in offices and robots on factory floors, President John F. Kennedy declared that the challenge was to “maintain full employment at a time when automation…is replacing men”.

The fact is that in the past technology has always ended up creating more jobs than it destroys. David Autor, an economist at MIT believes this is because “automating a particular task, so that it can be done more quickly or cheaply, increases the demand for human workers to do the other tasks around it that have not been automated.”

Take the banking industry. When ATMs were introduced, many expected it would equate to a gloomy outlook for bank tellers. While the numbers of tellers did fall, the cost of running a branch also reduced, allowing more branches to be opened to deal with customer demand. This increased the demand for employees and changed the way they worked, moving away from routine tasks and towards things like sales and customer service that machines couldn’t do.

It seems that access to information and the increasing pace of communications have revolutionised many knowledge-based industries, creating a broader range of vital roles in the process and a workforce ripe for upskilling and retraining.

3) There are new hiring processes

The explosion of digital technologies is changing the way talent is recruited. With millennials now making up a significant part of the workforce and Generation Z waiting in the wings to enter the workforce, a new way of talent acquisition is emerging.While a resume was once the calling card for employers, it’s now about the skills that individuals have and how they can benefit a business. This shift to skills-based hiring not only makes sense to employers who know what gaps in their business need filling, but matches the talents and potential of an individual to company where they will hopefully thrive and learn so they can grow into their role.

“The skills needed in the workforce are going to be less about IQ and a little bit more about EQ, because if you think about it, a lot of IQ knowledge is going to be available at our fingertips through hand-held devices and the computer and technologies that we have at our disposal.” Deborah Henretta, Group President, Asia & Global Specialty Channel at Procter & Gamble

There are new hiring processes | 4 Things Educators Need to Know to Address the Digital Skills Shortage

Take CyberCoders, a a tech-focused permanent placement organization. Aware of the fierce competition for talent, they wanted to attract the top competitors early in their careers. Through the Associate Recruiter Incubator Program, CyberCoders takes educated, highly driven and competitive individuals and teaches them to apply technology to a diverse marketplace. Using this program they believe that they are equipping young professionals with the tools they need to build their business development and recruiting skills to set them up for long and successful careers.

4) Training needs to focus on today’s and tomorrow’s skills

Training needs to focus on today’s and tomorrow’s skills | 4 Things Educators Need to Know to Address the Digital Skills Shortage

Typically, university marketing programs provide training on topics such as analytics, quantitative analysis, research techniques, and management. According to Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D, while these are all useful skills, they often haven’t been recontextualized for the fast-moving world of digital marketing - courses need a substantial level of practicality to ensure students are prepared for the modern world of work and all it has to offer them.

The biggest problem lies in the topics related to digital students don’t cover in detail, if at all. These skills have at least one thing in common - they're the bricks and mortar of successful digital programs. However, they are chronically under-taught in universities with 31% of students saying their schools don't offer, or they are unaware of courses, which encourage the development of digital or technical skills.

To overcome these issues and push towards a bright and prosperous digital future, key skills are needed to develop the talent of the next generation of workers. In the realm of digital, the most in-demand skills today are:

  • Cloud Computing: Globally there are over 18 million cloud computing jobs with a median salary of $90,000. With expertise in databases, automation, security and DevOps individuals with these skills are in huge demand.
  • SEO: 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results meaning that brands that want to get noticed need to pay attention to their rankings. This requires experts with the ability to build engagement, increase visibility, and drive brand awareness through innovative and integrated digital content strategies and the latest SEO methods.
  • User interface design: Since global companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Square have employed a design-centric ethos, customers now expect a seamless and aesthetically pleasing online experience. As a result job, opportunities for web designers and developers are expected to rise by 20% by 2020.
  • Content marketing: Content is now the top area of investment for businesses. For B2B marketers this focus equates to two-thirds creating more content than they did a year ago. The rise in demand for content marketers that can write engaging content that converts continues to rise year-on-year.
  • Social Media: Social media marketing budgets are set to double in the next 5 years with 78% of small businesses getting a least aone quarter of new customers through these networks. The expertise required to discover more about key demographics and customer bases by branching out to prospects in innovative ways, expanding reach, and connecting with consumers through a host of popular social media platforms shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • Mobile Marketing: 60% of marketers expect mobile marketing budgets to increase. The ability to optimize marketing campaigns and win over new prospects is key to an organization’s future success. Even SEO is now looking at a mobile first approach as more and more people access and engage with brands on their smartphones.

All of these disciplines cross over and need to integrate seamlessly to form one well-oiled digital machine that inspires, educates, offers value, and ultimately drives success. By providing professionals with relevant and applicable education in these areas and matching with the needs of today's business world, organizations can address the digital skills shortage to remain relevant well into the future.

In conclusion, today's literacy extends far beyond basic mathematics, spelling and grammar. Now people need a range of practical and applicable digital skills to match the demands of an ever-evolving marketplace.

To serve the needs of a workforce most successfully, education and training providers need to examine how they can keep up with the pace of industry. These efforts might mean exploring professional partnerships with certification bodies within the industry to provide students with accredited skills, or establishing a bridge between employers and professionals to fill the digital gaps that are creating obstacles to digital maturity.

Whatever the step, there are many digitally hungry professionals waiting.