According to the World Economic Forum 65% of children entering primary school today will be working in roles that do not yet exist. Currently the UK’s digital skills deficit is estimated to cost the economy £63 billion a year in lost additional GDP. Technology is the major engine for UK economic growth and these figures seem alarming. Britain’s skills deficit has been part of the national narrative for several years. In reports on the issue examples such as the ranking of English teenagers 22 in a list of 23 of developed nations for numeracy skills are used to emphasise the inefficiency of current STEM education.
Some research suggests that almost 70% of teachers believe they do not have the skills required to teach coding in schools. A government audit of IT equipment in schools found that 22% of it is ineffective and only 35% of ICT teachers hold a relevant qualification.
The European Commission’s report on the digital skills gap in Europe predicts that by 2020 half a million positions will be unfilled as 44% of Europeans do not have basic digital skills. It isn’t just the technology industry which requires professionals to have advanced from basic digital skills but industry wide. Research in the Netherlands has shown that employees lose nearly 8% of productive time due to poor IT resources or inadequate digital skills.
Solutions in action
Despite the scaremongering predictions which feature in the discourse on the future of work, a vast movement of positive initiatives are being established to ensure the problem doesn’t reach such levels.
Some examples; the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon are teaching students the art of entrepreneurship rather than just training them for careers in multinational corporations.
French telecom billionaire Xavier Niel has opened Europe’s biggest accelerator, with space for 1,000 startups, in a refurbished Paris train station. Likewise, national and regional authorities in Italy, Portugal, and Spain have adopted a combination of tax incentives and grant programs to stimulate startup hubs.
In Estonia there has been a movement translating courses into Estonian since 2012; today the Proge Tiger programme has developed into a much wider technology program tackling important skills.
Initiatives such as EU code week aims to bring coding and technical skills to the forefront of education. This year almost 1 million people from across EU countries organised events to promote coding.
It’s safe to say the discussion surrounding the changes required in the education landscape, required for a well equipped work force of the future, is well and truly alive. At the Readie Event on digital skills and the future of work earlier this year, Director of Vinnova, Ulf Holmgren, explained that creativity is an essential ingredient in digital transformation. ‘Soft’ skills such as good communication, critical thinking and most importantly, a learning mindset are necessary capabilities for anyone to thrive in the digital economy.