The government has announced a £200m digital skills training package to help people across the UK launch careers in high priority sectors.
As the UK commits to have a net zero economy by 2050 and plans to become a global leader in AI, the digital, green energy, and construction industries will be the primary beneficiaries of the scheme.
Investment will be targeted at specific skills for each region, driven by businesses in their local improvement plans. The training package will be rolled out through universities and government schemes.
Some key jobs will be in environmental consultancy and electric vehicle manufacturing. This was outlined in the recent King’s Speech and the government’s priorities to bolster innovation and Research & Development (R&D).
The scheme will also fund higher technical qualifications (HTQs), which are designed in close collaboration with employers so they can equip students with the skills they need to go onto further study or straight into a job.
“Digital skills are essential in the modern workplace as organisations take control of fast-moving technologies such as AI, so it is great to see the government’s investment in this area,” says Margo Waldorf, Founder at Change Award.
The urgency of upskilling
The government’s commitment to digital upskilling follows a widening digital skills gap in the workforce.
According to a survey by IONOS in collaboration with YouGov, 29% of small businesses said the ongoing shortage of skilled workers poses a high or very high risk for their business.
Similarly, a Salesforce survey found that only one in ten global workers have key AI skills and that 14% of respondents have roles that rarely involve digital expertise like encryption, cybersecurity or artificial intelligence.
This gap is not only wide, but costly – the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy an annual £12.8bn.
“Businesses are crying out for more people with technical skills to fill the great jobs we have today and new ones in the developing green economy,” emphasises Jane Gratton, Deputy Director of Public Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce.
“It’s vital that everyone can access the training they need locally to grasp these opportunities,” she adds.
Research by Deloitte and Digital Poverty Alliance found that there are 13-19 million people in the UK who are digitally excluded, which deprives them of the devices, skills, and connectivity needed to advance their professional career.
Although this policy is welcomed by some experts, others have approached it with more scepticism.
“While it is great to see the government taking action with this skill package, more must still be done to ensure everybody in the country has access to basic digital skills and technology,” warns Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance.
As the Autumn Statement approaches, industry experts suggest a more holistic approach should be taken by the government, particularly around R&D and innovation.