As part of the CBI’s ongoing work to equip the UK workforce with the skills for the future, the CBI’s Innovation Director Felicity Burch made a landmark speech at the TCS Innovation Conference in April. As well as outlining recent CBI research on the extent of the gap, she highlighted key actions that businesses can take to address and close it.
Whilst there is a significant role for government to ensure that education and skills policy is fit for purpose and reflects current and future business skills needs, 80% of businesses agree that they have a role and responsibility to train the workforce of the future.
Regarding digital transformation, Felicity said:
"Digital transformation could be huge. The fourth wave of industrial revolution is exciting, opening up vast possibilities for business transformation. But before we get too excited, there’s something holding the revolution back. Not enough businesses are adopting the behaviours they need to fully embrace the digital revolution.”
Though there are multifaceted reasons that firms struggle with digital transformation, there is one consistent challenge – skills.
“For businesses that identify themselves as early adopters and champions of digital innovation, the number one challenge is a shortage of specialist skills. Businesses that typically wait until technologies are mainstream before trying them, also have issues with identifying return on investment for transformative technology and internal understanding of tech.”
This is why the CBI has partnered with TCS to understand how digital skills needs are evolving in the UK. The research has found that the UK is at a tipping point on digital skills: 67% of businesses are reporting unfilled digital skills needs today. Firms need to take action.
Here are five key actions that companies can take:
- Digital vision
Any digital change needs to start from a clear vision for what you want digital to achieve. This vision will you’re your firm prioritise which skills you need to grow and invest in.
- Company-wide programme
Our research shows skills are often needed across the whole organisation: businesses should look to get a holistic view of their needs. Creating a Digital Skills Group is one way CBI members get a better understanding of needs and coordinate responses. Early wins on digital retraining can help build internal buy-in.
- Shop internally
Identify and make the most of your hidden skills. Businesses can have hidden skills and capabilities within their existing workforces (e.g. your grads are digital natives: they may be building apps in their spare time.).
Not all of the skills that you need for digital are ‘digital skills’ – there may be people who have a diverse range of experience that can help your digital journey.
- Collaborate externally
Partnerships with other firms and organisations are a great way to supplement your skills. Working with suppliers can help develop skills in your supply chain and develop next generation talent. Working with local government partnerships can be a good way to coordinate to ensure your digital training requirements are being met.
- Inspire and engage
Work with local education and skills providers; only a quarter of businesses are doing this – making it overlooked opportunity. The CBI will be publishing a toolkit to help firms engage with local education providers later this year.