Digital skills shortage hits productivity

Digital skills have become increasingly important to businesses in the UK, but a shortage of skills in their workforce is hampering growth, according to a new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.

The survey of more than 1,400 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that 84% of firms say digital and IT skills are more important to their business than they were two years ago; 51% of respondents said these skills are "significantly more important".

However, the survey also found that more than seven in ten businesses are facing a shortage of digital skills in their workforce, with 52% reporting a slight shortage, 21% a significant one and 3% a critical shortage.

The key findings of the survey show that:

  • the most important skills are basic computer skills (72%), communicating and connecting through digital channels (71%) and management of digital information (69%);
  • skills shortages are increasing workload for existing staff (52%), raising operating costs (29%) and making it more difficult to meet customer requirements (28%);
  • businesses say the main barriers include not enough time for staff training (41%), difficulty in identifying the right training (32%) and the cost of training (25%).

BCC director general Adam Marshall said businesses, Government and training providers must all do more to tackle the UK's digital skills crisis.

"Too many firms are stuck in an unproductive cycle, where the failure to take action has serious consequences. The evidence is clear: better digital skills make firms more productive, and a lack of digital skills holds them back. Businesses themselves need to do a lot more to tackle the digital skills shortages they face, and their leaders need to be alive to the fact that a failure to tackle this issue will have an impact on their bottom line."

He added: "Training providers can give firms a helping hand, by engaging with companies on their digital needs and helping them to free up resources for growth. Government must help as well, by recognising that some of the high-level digital skills businesses need will come from overseas, so a pragmatic immigration system needs to be in place to provide firms with access to the workers required to fill the gaps."

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