Mind the Gap: Why Digital Skills Need to be a Priority for 2020

Digital transformation has been rippling through almost every industry for some years now and brands the world over are finding ways to implement amazing new technology into their customer-facing and backroom operations.

Many of these technologies are designed to provide customers with innovative experiences which augment their shopping experience, while others are brought about by a need to make businesses more agile and efficient in their day to day operations. Whatever the intended application for the technology is, it’s crucially important that businesses also have the people in place who can effectively manage and operate it.

This is where digital skills come in. However, there presently exists a gap in this need and it only seems to be widening as time goes on. With that in mind, it seems prudent to cast a critical eye over the digital skills gap and think about what might be done to address it.

The Digital Skills Gap

The main factor driving the digital skills gap is the changing nature of work and the proliferation of Industry 4.0 technology. Older generations of workers are finding their skills being made irrelevant by the rapid advance of these technologies and there aren’t enough people ready to step up and fill those spaces.

According to research by Salesforce, there could be as many 756,000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT sector alone by the end of this year – an issue which is reflected all over the world and in every industry – from manufacturing to ecommerce. It’s predicted that at least 133 million new roles could emerge as a result of Industry 4.0 technology over the next two years. These roles are likely to involve a range of skills such as programming and app development, along with ones which computers can’t easily master such as creative thinking, problem-solving, and negotiating.

The problem is that, even if brands are able to find the right people with the skills they need now, the breakneck pace at which technology is advancing could render even these abilities largely irrelevant in a relatively short amount of time. This creates a situation where the goalposts are constantly moving and, not only do businesses not know what they are likely to need five years down the line, but young people starting out in higher education also find it near impossible to predict whether the course they’ve just embarked on will even be relevant by the time they graduate.

“We are witnessing a digital skills gap which employers currently expect to only widen over the coming months and years,” reports the Evening Standard. “The reason for this is the massive disconnect existing between education providers, young people, and employers, in the face of a widespread skills shortage. A recent survey revealed that almost half of young people believe that their education has not prepared them for the world of work. On the other side of the equation, 40 percent of employers say that a skills shortage is the problem they are struggling to fill entry-level jobs.”

What Can Be Done?

In the face of such a challenge, it can be incredibly difficult to deduce what the appropriate solution might be. However, the best way businesses can future-proof themselves against this widespread issue is to become self-sufficient and invest time and resources into making sure the right people have the right skills.

This might mean embarking on a large scale and ongoing training program, where digitally skilled employees are constantly being re-skilled in the latest advances in technology. This creates an environment where, instead of repeatedly hiring and re-hiring new people with the skills you need ad nauseum, your existing workforce is kept riding the wave of progress as it moves along.

Real Business reports – “What if every business that relied on the use of technology, upskilled members of their existing workforce? What if they took the bright, young stars of the future and provided them with the training to manage and control all tech-based systems in-house? The result would change the business sector as we know it today, significantly reducing the digital skills gap and any reliance on external resources, whilst enabling businesses to nourish talent, reduce costs and increase productivity – a picture of success-driven through a shift in mindset alone.”

Obviously, this is no small feat and will require significant investment, time, and a complete shift in attitude, but it truly is the most effective way to tackle the digital skills gap and make sure your business is prepared for whatever the future may throw at it.

Final Thoughts

The digital skills gap is real, and businesses need to act quickly to make sure they don’t fall behind and have the very best people, with the right skills, in the correct roles. Those that do are the ones most likely to meet this challenge head on and find success far into the future.

The digital skills gap is sure to be a hot topic at eTail Europe 2020, taking place in June at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London.

Download the agenda today for more information.

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