Procurement · 31 March 2016

Digital skills gap exposed by inadequate investment

Small firms invest on average £109 a year on digital skills per worker

Britain’s smaller businesses are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the digital skills gap, with many firms at risk of falling behind more digitally savvy competitors.

Almost half of UK employers believe organisations would be more productive with higher levels of digital skill amongst workers, whilst 34 per cent admitted to finding it difficult to implement the right training to digitally upskill a workforce.

According to new Barclays research, 40 per cent of companies rely on the digital skills of younger employees and graduates – ignoring the pressing need to boost the digital competence of more senior employees.

Just over a third of business owners believe that only a small proportion of their workforce has the necessary digital skills that specific job roles require of them.

Knowledge of data and device protection was found to be one of the most desirable traits of new employees when firms recruit, revealing greater concern amongst the UK’s business owners around cyber and information security.

Data analysis, social media knowledge, an understanding of cloud-based collaborative tools and coding were also considered attractive skills.

Despite mounting concern, Barclays discovered that firms were investing on average just £109 a year on digital skills training for each worker, whilst the average owners were willing to increase spending on digital skills training over the next five years was just 19 per cent.

Barclays UK CEO Ashok Vaswani said that the findings demonstrated both the benefits and drawbacks of an increasingly digital-based working environment. “Although in many ways empowering, the digital revolution can also be challenging because it requires people to acquire, retain and consistently develop new skills and understanding,” he commented.

“We are at a tipping point when it comes to digital skills and the UK must act now to ensure we are not left behind. Together with government, businesses and society as a whole, we need to raise our sights beyond basic inclusion and aim to create a Britain of true digital confidence at all levels.”

Cybercrime has been hailed as one of the most significant threats to small businesses in the UK going forward. A recent national security council report classified cybercrime as a “Tier One” threat to national security, alongside terrorism and war.

Read on for our expert’s guide to protecting your micro business from hackers and cyber criminals.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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