Digital Skills Gap Could Cost UK Economy £2bn

Author Zara Burke

Britain’s Digital economy will need an additional 750,000 suitably skilled workers by 2017 if it is to maintain its current rate of growth, according to new research commissioned by O2.

Over 2 million people are currently working in the UK’s Digital sector, but failure to increase this by a further three quarters of a million could cost the economy up to £2 billion every year.

The research, carried out by Development Economics, adds to concerns raised by previous studies that there is a growing Digital skills gap in the UK.

“Now more than ever before, Digital offers the chance to drive sustained economic recovery, but this will only be realized if we become a nation of digitally confident businesses with a digitally literate workforce,” said Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive of O2.

Training for Young People Essential

Dunne added that it is not the responsibility of government alone to fill this gap. He called on businesses to invest in more  training programmes for current and future employees, and show a greater willingness to employ people with less previous experience.

The research claims that up to 20% of the 750,000 required positions will be entry-level, meaning they would be suitable for school-leavers, recent graduates or young unemployed people with little or no previous work experience.

“As Digital natives, young people possess valuable skills that will be the future of our economy, but not enough is being done to harness them,” said Dunne.

The report makes three recommendations for both businesses and government:

  • Improve awareness of Digital as a career path for young people
  • Offer greater support for delivery of Digital education in schools
  • Increase engagement in Digital skills exchange programmes to encourage small businesses to offer work experience for young people

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Zara Burke