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How can essential digital skills help the skills gap?

Louise Allen, Group Director, Global Business Development and Marketing looks at how essential digital skills can help with the skills gap.

NOCN Group will host it’s second Skills Summit on 2 March 2022. It will help Colleges, Training Providers and employers understand the various routes to develop a skilled workforce for the future. The Skills Summit will help you navigate Green Skills, Employability Skills, Apprenticeships, Functional Skills and Essential Digital Skills. Louise Allen, Group Director, Global Business Development and Marketing looks at how essential digital skills can help with the skills gap.

It's been well reported that the UK is experiencing record-high employment levels, a sign of the health of the country's labour market. After the disruption in 2020, the UK has seen employer demand not only recover but reach levels seen before the pandemic. All regions in the country have experienced double-digit growth in job postings over the past two years. The North East saw huge growth from January 2020 to December 2021 (72.7% growth), followed by the East Midlands (68.1%) and Northern Ireland (52%). London has not yet returned to pre-Covid levels, with job postings still 0.6% down on January 2020, likely due to fewer people commuting into the capital and tourist numbers well below their pre-Covid levels. But this strength hides a vulnerability – a mismatch between workers skills and those needed by employers. The OECD has found 40% of workers in the UK are in a profession that they are not qualified for. 

Skills are a vital component of productivity. This mismatch has serious implications for the UK economy. It affects productivity, limits the competitiveness of UK businesses, and acts as a lag on individuals' pay progression and job satisfaction. 

What are skills for work?

What do we mean when we talk about skills for work? Sometimes this is referred to as employability skills, but the terms are interchangeable. These skills are personal qualities that make a person employable. Sometimes they are referred to as "soft skills" or transferable skills as they are different from the technical skills and work experience in a job role or industry. They can be applied to any area of work or life. They are arguably more important than ever before due to the rapidly changing job market. The need for multi-skilled workers who can adapt to the changing landscape is a priority for employers.

Evidence suggests that the UK's demand for skills – particularly technology and interpersonal/people skills will increase over the next decade, while the supply of these skills will be constrained. The in-depth analysis shows that 80% of the 2030 workforce are already in the workforce today. Reskilling the existing workforce will be a significant challenge between now and 2030.

The Future Jobs 2020 Report, released by the World Economic Forum in October 2020, highlights that critical thinking and analysis, complex problem-solving and self-management skills are among the top skills and skills groups that global employers view as crucial in the run-up to 2025. The skills gap will continue in the approach to 2025. Companies estimated that around 40% of workers would need reskilling to plug this gap.

Building a workforce for the future

As a result, an increasing number of people are looking to learn new skills. Companies can start investing in better metrics of human and social capital. Business leaders understand that reskilling is good for both businesses and society. This is key to a successful future workforce, identifying those workers who are being displaced from their roles, focusing on committees to manage this displacement, funding reskilling and upskilling – either out of company budgets or through government funding.

Lifelong learning is a critical aspect of building a workforce for the future, such as evolving the Apprenticeship Levy into a flexible Skills and Training Levy to unlock business investment in accredited training. Another essential aspect in building a workforce for the future is lifelong learning, ensuring each employee has routes to continue expanding their skill set and growing as technology improves and new industries emerge. 

The CBI has called on the Government to act on several measures to prioritise learning and development. This includes the Apprenticeship Levy being turned into a Skills and Training Levy, which will support higher levels of investment in training. 

Opportunities for businesses

Those companies who are forward-looking recognise that the future will be digital. Planning for a digital workforce needs to be a top priority. Increasing digital skills across many business functions and having those businesses evolve – allows new talent to emerge. 

Upskilling staff with essential digital skills has enormous benefits for businesses. Staff with these skills use them to improve their job performance, advance their careers and take on new responsibilities. This allows companies to address the talent gaps through existing talent pools, not just by recruiting new people.

Having improved digital capability helps individuals improve their personal resilience – from health and wellbeing to future employability. For example, the 2020 Lloyds Consumer Digital Index found that people with high digital engagement report significant lifestyle and wellbeing benefits. 87% say it helps them connect better with friends and family, and 44% say it helps them manage physical and mental wellbeing. 

The 2019 DCMS report No Longer Optional: Employer demand for Digital Skills describes digital skills as "essential entry requirements for two-thirds of UK occupations".

The good news is improving digital skills is also rising the priority list for employees. Recent research from Microsoft reports 59% of employees say developing their digital skills will be necessary to their employability. This is supported by findings from Good Things Foundation, with dramatic increases in the number of employed people accessing their online digital skills courses during the pandemic, overtaking their traditional learners (unemployed and retired) for the first time. These findings suggest that helping people improve their digital capability could be part of the employer value proposition (EVP).

Developing Tomorrow’s Skills Today

The Skills Summit will help colleges, training providers and employers understand the various routes to develop the skilled workforce of the future.  NOCN Group's history is rooted in up-skilling and re-skilling workers for deployment in industrial Britain.  

Our Skills Summit will help you navigate the new funding available for Traineeships, Apprenticeships, Entry Level to Level 3 Qualifications, Functional Skills, and new technologies to enable learning and assessment on demand.

Register Today



Louise Allen – Group Director, Global Business Development and Marketing, NOCN Group

NOCN Group Director, Global Business Development and Marketing, Louise Allen has over 20 years’ experience in strategic business development. Louise has extensive knowledge of establishing new sales channels, creating new partnerships, and negotiating high-value contracts. For the past 10 years, Louise has worked in senior positions throughout the education sector managing and developing sales teams of various sizes.