UK needs an extra 750,000 digitally skilled workers by 2017

The UK needs more than three quarters of a million digitally skilled workers by 2017 in order to achieve billions of pounds worth of additional economic output per year.

A study by Development Economics, commissioned by O2, uses econometric modelling to identify and predict the UK economy’s digital skills gap over the next five years. According to the research, between 169,000 and 182,000 of the jobs needed to support future economic growth are ideally suited to the current generation of digitally-savvy young people.

O2 suggests that greater collaboration between the government and private sector could also result in an additional 100,000 jobs being created, in addition to the three-quarters of a million requirement.

Speaking at Campus Party, one of the world’s largest technology festivals, Telefónica UK CEO Ronan Dunne said: “Now more than ever before, digital offers the chance to drive sustained economic recovery, but this will only be realised if we become a nation of digitally confident businesses with a digitally literate workforce.

“The onus cannot be on the government alone. Businesses must proactively seek out opportunities to collaborate to maximise the digital growth opportunity and harness the potential of the next generation.

He added: “As digital natives, young people possess valuable skills that will be the future fuel of our economy, but not enough is being done to harness them.”

The government is currently undertaking a huge overhaul of the computing and ICT teaching curriculum in schools, in a bid to deliver the next generation of coders and digital workers. Chancellor George Osborne wrote in the Observer this week that it is “vital” that British students are taught how to code and “master the tools of the digital age”.

It is predicted that government initiatives will boost economic output by up to £7 billion per year by 2017, but O2 has made a number of recommendations that it believes will add an additional £4 billion per year to the economy:

• Greater collaboration between government and business to improve awareness of digital careers amongst young people

• Increased support from business and industry in the delivery of digital skills education in schools

• Backing from government and businesses to increase engagement in digital skills exchange programmes, to encourage small businesses to better support and offer young people work experience

Tristan Wilkinson, deputy director of digital skills charity Go ON UK, has urged collaboration across government and industry in response to the report.

“This report highlights the scale of the digital opportunity but also the very real cost to our economic recovery if we do not create a workforce that is fit for the future.

“It’s vital that government, industry and the voluntary sector work together to ensure that everyone has basic online skills. Only then will we unlock the huge economic and social benefit that digital presents.”

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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