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Tackling the Digital Skills Gap for future-proofed, resilient businesses

Group working round a desk - digital skills gap

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Following the acceleration in technological development over the last few years, the ability to leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analysis and robotics has become vital for business resiliency, productivity and ultimately remaining competitive in this digital-first world.

Yet in 2023, global organisations are still struggling with the impact of the “digital skills gap” – the gap between the supply and demand of workers with skills in emerging technologies.

Laurence Galland, Chief People Officer, Exclusive Networks

In this article, Laurence Galland, Chief People Officer, Exclusive Networks, delves into the causes of the digital skills gap, the impact it has on businesses and how organisations can support the digital skills uptake.

Laurence is a HR veteran with over 15 years’ experience, during which she has generated an impressive track record in talent development and business evolution across large international teams. At Exclusive Networks, Laurence is responsible for people development and enabling the human potential of our brightest talent. She creates business value from HR through the application of data-driven strategies and supporting Exclusive’s agile, inclusive and unique business culture: L’Esprit Exclusive.

WHAT IS CAUSING THE DIGITAL SKILLS GAP?

During the pandemic, we saw a sharp uptick in the adoption of digital tools amongst businesses which fast-forwarded technological progress by a couple of years. However, this left a stark gap between the pace of digital transformation of businesses and the skills needed to apply the technology to match this level of innovation. As a result, we continue to see high demand for digital skills and not enough qualified individuals to fill these positions.

Additionally, there is a disconnect between the digital skills taught in the education system versus the skills required by the labour market. At present, the curriculum focuses more on basic computing skills rather than technology or data skills, meaning skill-building within schools is not matching with employers’ needs.  

The effects of the digital skills gap are alarming. In the UK, for example, $285 billion of national economic growth is at risk between now and 2026 if the digital skills crisis is not adequately addressed. This figure clearly indicates the value digital skills bring to national and global economies – through job creativity and productivity and the impact if this is not achieved, i.e. a lack of innovation.

SUPPORTING DIGITAL SKILLS UPTAKE

One way businesses can support the uptake of digital skills is through training employees and apprentices – engaging in both upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling provides current employees with additional skills whilst reskilling refers to replacing employees’ skills with ones that meet the needs of the employer and wider market. Through training programmes, employees will gain core skills in areas such as cloud computing or artificial intelligence and the knowledge to thrive in a digital economy.  

Another course of action is introducing basic concepts of data analysis and computer science to students from an early age and making these technology courses at all levels accessible and interesting. Collaboration between schools and businesses will ensure that the educational curriculum aligns with the skills needed for employment and offers students exposure to the wider workforce and role models.

At Exclusive Networks, we have taken a concrete step towards empowering the next generation of cybersecurity talent by launching the Exclusive Academy. The academy is a specialised training programme that offers participants practical field experience as well as theoretical training from Exclusive Networks’ experts over a three-year period, culminating in high-level qualifications. While there is still work to be done, the programme is a move in the right direction to addressing the shortage of skilled professionals in the cybersecurity industry.

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