According to the latest release from DCMS on January 20th entitled “DCMS Sectors Skills Shortages and Skills Gaps”, data for the IT and Computing sectors shows that 33.38% (approximately a third) of vacancies across England and Wales are due to skills shortages. Principaly, a lack of quality digital skills in the workplace is causing issues in recruitment and development for businesses.We spoke to Sarah-Jane McQueen, General Manager of CoursesOnline about why this shortage is happening and what can be done to alleviate its impact. Why is there a shortage of applicants with the required digital skills?One of the key reasons we’re facing a digital skills shortage is the digitisation of the modern workplace. With a huge increase in remote work, many employees have to become far more tech-savvy, even if their roles didn’t previously require many digital skills.Furthermore, the pandemic meant many people were on furlough, made redundant, or changed roles. These factors combined could have caused many workers to miss out on important training or may have created gaps in their knowledge. Although we’re seemingly at the tail end of the pandemic now, we might just be seeing the beginning of a gap in training caused by the crisis now.In the same vein, an increasingly remote workforce may have exposed gaps that previously went unseen. Some employees may have had just about enough digital knowledge to get their job done, but may be struggling in a newer, remote environment. Meanwhile, new graduates may feel uneasy to approach their managers about gaining additional digital skills if they’ve had a less social and more formal relationship with their higher ups when working from home and out of the office.How should recruitment/HR teams approach sourcing new employees?Often, companies will hire to fill a specific role and base the job specifications around that. However, it’s worth checking in with your staff across the company to find out if there are any skills gaps. Increasing the scope of the new role to include those with skills that your company is lacking can be an excellent idea. Although that one person won’t solve a skills shortage across a whole company, hiring someone new who can hit the ground running and help others through social learning can have a considerable impact. Sourcing new employees who have a wider range of skills and knowledge can ensure that they’re able to be upskilled in multiple areas. Focusing too much on plugging digital skills gaps with individual employees can lead you down a rabbit hole, whereas bringing on adaptable employees with wide skill sets can create an agile workforce that can take on new skills easily.How to proceed if you can’t fill a long-term vacancyIf you can’t fill a certain vacancy, the best approach is to break down the role into the skills it requires. You may find that you can upskill your current employees to take on extra responsibilities. If you’re still keen to bring someone new in, you can shift some of the more in-depth skills towards current staff while paring down the role to be more open to candidates with a common and available skill set. Better still, you can reallocate budget to hire a slightly less qualified candidate and give your current staff who are learning new skills a pay rise. In that instance, you’ve created a clear learning pipeline that your new employee can be a part of as well. This mitigates the risk of having more digital skills gaps appear down the line and upskills a larger portion of your workforce.What broader changes are needed to improve the UK’s supply of workers with essential digital skills?More widely, instilling a sense of lifelong learning into employees is an excellent strategy. This needs to come from the top, though, as employees won’t be motivated to upskill themselves unless managers and CEOs find ways to reduce or move capacity in order to create time for the workers to complete their training. Furthermore, moving beyond the idea that digital skills are only necessary for those in a role that is directly related to IT is key. Almost all modern roles are digitised in some way, so ensuring that all of your employees have up-to-date digital skills is vital.