8 Ways Educators Can Benefit from the Digital Skills Shortage

The modern workplace is facing a serious digital skills shortage. Demand for technical proficiency outstrips supply, and companies find it difficult to find workers with the right expertise. 

The Digital Marketing Institute’s latest research demonstrates the issue of the skills shortage is the second most significant challenge for marketing leaders while recruiting the right talent is the fourth biggest obstacle in the US, UK, and Pacific region.

The speed of technological change, inadequate skills training in higher education, and stagnant professional courses which all contribute to a costly lack of proficiency in the workforce. In fact, a deficiency of digital skills costs the economy approximately £63 billion per year in GDP.

Higher education and professional training play a key role in shaping the current and future workforce. As such, the skills shortage represents a chance for educators to develop training programs and professional development certifications that are up to date, relevant, and applicable to the job market.

In this article, we explore 8 key ways that educators can benefit from this opportunity. 

1. Target New Markets

As the modern workplace evolves, a new demographic of learners has emerged. This includes people changing occupations, mature students, and working professionals, all looking to develop their digital skills. Niche areas such as coding, automation, and analytics are gaining particular interest, as these skills are likely to help future-proof careers.

It's estimated that a solid digital skillset is required for 90% of new jobs. While degrees and other tertiary qualifications provide a solid foundation, only 50% of university students believe that they graduate with the skills required to succeed in the digital workplace. A willingness to keep learning is therefore crucial to a long-term career in the digital economy.

According to our new 2020 research, one of the biggest challenges for companies in today’s economy is recruiting appropriately-skilled staff. The knowledge gap presents a considerable opportunity for the education sector. As most training is now outsourced, established institutions can focus on supporting companies with continuing education. Bolstered by the strength of their existing reputations, colleges, universities, and training schools have substantial scope to enter and succeed in new markets.

2. Drive New Revenue Streams

THE University Leaders Survey 2018

The education sector has felt the strain of reduced funding in recent years, due to a number of factors, including diminished contributions from central government, fewer students applying for some subjects, and increased competition within the sector for chronically squeezed funds.

Institutions should therefore consider new sources of revenue, as diversification can protect against the immediate and long-term consequences of reduced funding.

Skills training is a natural progression for many institutions and professionals, particularly those that already offer vocational courses and career support to their students. Individuals from all walks of life are looking for training that is flexible, bite-sized, and interactive. Tapping into that abundant demand can provide a substantial, and much needed, revenue boost. 

3. Gain Competitive Advantage

As a whole, the education sector is a relatively crowded space, with multiple institutions vying for the same customers. As such, it’s crucial to have a differentiator that stands out to students.

Acknowledging that the skills needed in the workforce are changing, and supplying courses that address the skills gap, can be a huge draw for students. Offering industry-aligned digital skills that can increase employability or boost skills needed for the workplace will help an institution to stand out.

Furthermore, providing niche training can be a huge boost in terms of SEO. A website’s position on Google’s rankings is determined by its relevance to a search term (as well as its popularity!) Offering courses and certifications that are most relevant in the digital workplace can help to make universities, colleges, or training providers to become more visible – both online and within the sector more generally.

Even though it may seem old-fashioned, a recommendation from another human can be just as powerful as an online search. And gaining a reputation for excellence in workplace skills training can really make an institution stand out. 

4. Build Industry Links

Career fair

Across all industries, employers are looking for talented applicants to fill the skills gaps in their workforce. Educators should aim to build a rapport with industrial partners, in order to receive a steady flow of students over a long term.

But how can training professionals make those valuable connections in the first place? The best place to start is at the usual confluence of the educational and industrial worlds; university job fairs. Large, motivated corporations will be present, looking for digitally-skilled graduates to onboard. This presents the perfect opportunity to publicise skills training – not just for existing students, but for professionals at any stage of their careers.

If an educator offers training in a specific niche, it’s a good idea to target companies in relevant industries. And it’s not simply a matter of selling a curriculum; training professionals have the opportunity to ask employers what they want to see. This demonstrates an ability to tailor courses to evolving industrial requirements, as well as a sincere interest in continuous improvement. 

Educators should aim to develop and offer gold standard courses that become renowned within their target sector. Effective industrial partnerships help to support that. 

5. Improve and Update Portfolio Offerings

Over time, a training provider’s portfolio can become out-of date and out of touch. As the workforce evolves, so must the courses offered by educators. This ensures that training remains relevant to the industry, useful to individuals, and profitable for institutions.

Feeding into digital skills provides huge opportunities for educators. A portfolio of courses might include fundamentals for beginners or refreshers, specializations such as social media, automation, and AR, and postgraduate diplomas or Masters degrees for professionals looking to gain a promotion or boost their employability.

It’s helpful to involve students and industry figures in this process. Educators should encourage feedback and look for patterns that indicate how their courses will continue to evolve. 

6. Match the Pace of the Job Market

The job market evolves constantly. This presents a considerable challenge to educators, in that skills requirements can change far more rapidly than the usual life cycle of a curriculum.

Educators must keep track of changes and be ready to adapt, in order to avoid the scourge of outdated training. It’s a sizeable task, but in matching the pace of the job market, trainers demonstrate awareness of industry requirements. 

This helps to build a strong reputation for reliability and swift action to stay on top of the game. Ultimately, this can be very profitable, as companies seek out educators with the most up-to-date syllabus.

In addition, it can be useful for educators to partner with – or resell products from – digital specialists that update learning content regularly, and in response to major developments. This helps to stay perfectly aligned with the job market. 

7. Feed Into New Hiring Processes

The tide seems to be turning for the humble CV. Many companies are moving away from what’s captured on a résumé, and focusing instead on a competency-based process. Essentially, this means that recruiters identify specific skills that are crucial to a role, then select the best candidates based on credentials and certifications that demonstrate those skills.

This is great news for educators. If the trend continues – and it shows no sign of slowing down – there will be growing demand for skills training. This presents an unmissable opportunity to develop new programs and assessments, and begin tapping into a growing pool of potential students. Time is of the essence, so educators are advised to move quickly in order to yield the benefits of competency-based recruitment.

8. Greater Diversity

We’ve spoken about the opportunity to increase student numbers, expand into new curricula, and become more profitable, but the digital skills shortage also offers educators the opportunity to meet and engage with a more diverse range of people.

A skills training class might contain university students, recent graduates, people changing careers, specialists, managers, and people who were not able to afford ‘traditional’ education. All have something to learn from one another, and the educator is not exempt.

For educators looking to revamp or refresh their careers, developing digital skills-based programs can reignite the spark that prompted this choice of career in the first place. 

Conclusion

The digital skills shortage presents a substantial constraint on economic success. Innovative, up-to-date training is the antidote, and educators are at the forefront of developing and delivering programs that will enrich the workforce.

There are many potential benefits for training professionals, including entry into new markets and revenue streams, better connections with industry, a leading role in competency-based recruitment, and opportunities for diversification. In short, it’s a win-win for all parties.

Clodagh O'Brien
Senior Content Specialist