Business

UK facing 'digital skills crisis' warn MPs

  • 13 June 2016
  • From the section Business
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Woman using computer Image copyright Thinkstock

Urgent action is needed to deal with the UK's digital skills crisis, warn MPs, or it risks damaging the country's productivity and competitiveness.

It is thought 12.6 million adults lack basic digital skills, while 5.8 million have never used the internet at all.

"Stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems" with education and training need to be urgently addressed, the report said.

It urged the government's digital strategy to be published without delay.

The report found that:

  • 22% of IT equipment in schools is ineffective
  • Just 35% of computer science teachers had a relevant qualification
  • Only 70% of the required number of computer science teachers have been recruited
  • The UK needs another 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017
  • 90% of jobs require digital skills to some degree
  • Skills gap costs economy around £63bn a year in lost income

"Digital exclusion has no place in 21st Century Britain," the Commons Science and Technology Committee said.

"While the government is to be commended for the actions taken so far... stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems with digital education and training need to be addressed as a matter of urgency in the government's forthcoming digital strategy," it continued.

The report calls for businesses to invest more and better training at all levels of education.

"The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow's workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need," said the committee's chairwoman, Nicole Blackwood.

In response a government spokesperson said: "This government recognises the crucial role digital skills play in our society and economy. Our Digital Strategy, to be published shortly, will set out how we will help employers and individuals access the tools they need to power our digital economy.

"This will make sure we are well placed to remain a tech leader in Europe. We will consider the Select Committee's report and respond in due course," they added.


What is a digital skill?

The Science and Technology Committee says there is no single definition but is generally understood to be the ability to use computers and digital devices to access the internet, the ability to code or create software and the ability to critically evaluate media, and "to navigate knowingly through the negative and positive elements of online activity and make informed choices about the content and services they use".


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