Prior to coronavirus, 95% of firms told the CBI that they expected their digital skills would need to increase in the next 3-5 years. Two thirds of firms also reported unfilled digital skills vacancies. We responded to these concerns by launching our campaigns on driving the adoption of digital technology and equipping the workforce with skills for the future. But fast forward to mid-2020, and the coronavirus pandemic has made the urgency for digital skills and access to reliable broadband even more pressing.
Businesses can only adapt and innovate with the right talent
During the crisis, educators have successfully developed models for online learning and businesses have embraced home working. But the realities of digital poverty have also been exposed: many young Londoners do not have access to physical technology or data and, unless this is addressed, thousands of Londoners face exclusion from the ability to learn, train and work. This is a huge problem for London’s business community, impacting on the future of the capital’s most competitive advantage: its diverse, skilled talent.
Educators weigh in on the problem:
- By July 2020 – due to the pandemic, Goldsmiths, University of London provided 304 of their students with equipment and/or broadband to combat digital exclusion. 51 of these students required both laptops and broadband
- Brunel University London reported in June 2020 that since the coronavirus lockdown, 5% of students have not had regular access to a laptop to use for studying and 4% do not have regular access to Wi-Fi
- Middlesex University says: “Digital poverty is a real issue for Middlesex current and prospective students. We have repurposed funding … to provide an additional 1,000 student loan laptops. This supplements the 350 student loan laptops we already have.”
What is the CBI doing about it?
On 16 July 2020, the CBI invited the Mayor of London to collaborate on the London Tech Guarantee: a partnership between business, government, universities and local colleges, to widen the provision of tech and data to young Londoners and enhance digital skills. Its main purpose is to ensure that no young Londoner is excluded from participating in London’s economy because of hardship, therefore enabling greater social mobility and greater diversity of thought within London’s businesses.
Once formed, the guarantee will help to coordinate both tech and monetary donations to universities, colleges, and young Londoners. It will also develop critical innovative policy solutions to strengthen and widen London’s connectivity and access to tech.
Many CBI members have already pledged their support, but more help is always needed to tackle such a wide-reaching issue.
How you can make a difference
The CBI is currently developing the details of the Tech Guarantee scheme alongside the Greater London Authority and we are looking for businesses to help build and shape the policy.
If you’d like to be involved in the scheme’s development, your business is not required to provide donations but instead, simply register your interest. To be involved in the London Tech Guarantee working group or to learn more about the scheme, contact Katy Recina.
This opportunity is also not exclusive to businesses in London. The success of London’s students has an impact on the whole of the UK – particularly as students moving from one region to another for university, account for around one fifth of all movements in England and Wales. Students currently in London may become your colleagues in Birmingham, Norfolk, or Glasgow – so ensuring young people have access to tech is critical to the UK’s productivity.
Any business interested in getting involved, no matter where you’re located, should get in touch.