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Digital skills gap narrowing, but more needs to be done, says Deloitte

Jan 11
Tags: Deloitte
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Digital skills gap narrowing, but more needs to be done...

The digital skills gap - an issue that has raised a lot of questions and caused widespread concern with regards to the UK economy - appears to be narrowing, according to research by Deloitte.

A new report from the firm highlights positive trends over recent months, but also points out that further progress is needed in some key areas.

Growing confidence

One of the key findings in the latest Digital Disruption Index showed that nearly one in five business leaders (18 per cent) believe school leavers and graduates are entering the workforce with the right digital skills and experience. Less than one in eight (12 per cent) expressed this view in a survey conducted six months earlier.

Following a similar trend, a quarter (25 per cent) of respondents from FTSE-listed companies, large private businesses and UK public sector organisations surveyed in September and October 2018 said their current workforce has the knowledge and skills required to execute their digital strategy. This marked an increase from 16 per cent in spring 2018.

While these are encouraging developments, corporate leaders who feel positive about the availability of key digital skills are still very much in the minority.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of survey respondents said technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things are transforming their operations, meaning businesses will become increasingly reliant on people with the capability to use and implement these innovations.

Deloitte stressed that "more needs to be done" to ensure skills growth keeps up with the pace of adoption of new technologies in the workplace.

Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, partner at Deloitte and author of this year's Digital Disruption Index, said it's a "simple truth" that, if employees don't have the abilities, knowledge and experience to get the best out of digital innovations, investment in this space will "prove worthless".

"While it's promising to see improvements in leaders' confidence in their workers' digital abilities, there is a lot more that still needs to be done and, if left unaddressed, the skills gap could grow to a level that's hard to fill," he added.

"Failure to do more to educate both those in the workforce and those in the classroom will leave the UK trailing behind our global peers in the rapidly expanding digital economy."

AI policies

Another key section of the Digital Disruption Index focused on deployment of AI - something that is becoming increasingly important and possibly beneficial for many businesses.

While AI offers a lot of potential, the survey results revealed that only 42 per cent of digital leaders have a policy in place to ensure it is used safely and ethically.

Overall, 44 per cent of executives confirmed they have already invested in AI, while 37 per cent were expecting to take their first steps into this space within the next two years.

Where policies and procedure are concerned, Dr Matthew Howard, director of artificial intelligence at Deloitte, said AI decision-making should be assessed "in the same way as human decision-making".

He added: "In all instances, an organisation's values should inform how and why AI is used, just as those values are used to inform any other business decision."

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Image: ersinkisacik via iStock

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