Futureproofing the UK workforce – why digital learning is for everyone, not just students

SUMMARY:

As the London end of the Salesforce World Tour kicks off, Andy Lawson looks at the skill sets needed to keep the UK a thriving digital economy.

Today, more than 1.5 million people work in digital tech roles across all industries and last year a record amount of venture capital funding flowed into the UK technolgoy sector. From analysts to web developers to software architects, these pioneers of our digital economy are at the forefront of a great British success story.

The UK has a world-leading digital economy that contributes over £116bn per year in gross value added and is growing twice as fast as the wider economy. The government wants this to rise to £200bn by 2025 and meeting this target means having the right conditions for the UK’s digital sector to continue to thrive. This will only be possible if we address the tech skills shortage. Part of this comes down to sharing our expertise and spearheading initiatives to help develop digital and tech skills – not just with young people who are still in formal education, but with people already in the workplace.

At our Salesforce World Tour London event today – with more than 12,000 registered attendees – customers, partners, Salesforce executives and other thought leaders across our ecosystem are sharing best practice on how businesses can be transformed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While this new era offers businesses many opportunities for success it also provides the possibility that the skills gap will widen even more as a result of new technologies redefining traditional jobs and requiring new digital skill-sets.

In a world where graduates aren’t leaving university with the digital skills businesses demand and too few organisations are effectively re-skilling their people, business leaders need to take responsibility and work together to train people for jobs in the future digital economy and ensure that nobody gets left behind.

We recently carried out research with YouGov to explore the attitudes of UK workers to the digital skills they need today and what they think they will need in the future. The results reveal that more than one in three workers (37%) in the UK believe there is a risk they won’t be able to get a job in the future if they don’t acquire further skills to match future technology. Those in work, full time education or seeking employment in London are most likely to share this belief above all other regions, with nearly half stating this (47%). People in the South East show the least concern, with just 28% sharing this belief.

And when it comes to acquiring those skills, the majority (82%) of UK workers claim that lifelong learning and continuous training in technology are crucial to ensuring they can succeed in their career today and in the future.

Responsibility

So whose responsibility is it to deliver this education and training?

According to our research, nine in ten (91%) of UK adults believe that it is important that employers provide training in technologies relevant to future jobs. In addition, 63% of UK workers believe that the development of their technological skills would have a positive impact on their company’s overall efficiency.

I believe the responsibility of lifelong learning and continuous training in technology is not just down to one individual company, government or politician. It’s a huge societal challenge that requires a collaborative effort between different organisations, industries, institutions and political parties. It’s all about working in partnership towards a common goal of preparing more workers for the jobs of the future.

The good news is that many businesses and industry bodies are already making a concerted effort in this space. For example, Tech Nation has pledged to expand the content and reach of the Digital Business Academy, so that it can support more than 40,000 people to learn the skills needed to start, join or grow a digital business. In addition, TechUK has set up a Skills, Talent and Migration Group to explore and promote initiatives and policy proposals that will enable the UK technology sector to have access to world-leading talent.

Coding clubs for adults are also becoming increasingly popular. I know plenty of friends and family members who have signed up to a course to improve their tech skills. CodeUp, codebar and #techmums are just an example of the many clubs available throughout the UK. Not only is it an opportunity for people to learn new digital skills, and keep up to date with what their children may be learning in school, but many go on to change their lives and find new career paths based on those new skills.

We’ve seen similar success stories through Trailhead – Salesforce’s free, online programme which enables anyone to learn new digital and other skills through online courses. Globally, Trailhead has more than 600,000 users, where learners have earned more than 6.5 million badges and completed more than 24 million challenges on the platform. People like Marcelle Braithwaite, a Salesforce Consultant at Cloudshift Group, have used Trailhead to completely transform their careers and we see hundreds of these stories across our network come to life each day. It just goes to show how valuable these free, online platforms are.

The governments’ target to create a digital economy worth £200bn by 2025 will only be met if we have a highly skilled and trained workforce. However, the drive for a highly skilled workforce is not just about meeting financial targets. it’s about providing everyone with access to education and training throughout their lives so that no one gets left behind in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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