Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Mind the gap – improving the UK’s digital skills in an evolving job market

February 6, 2018

In our everyday lives, most of us benefit from digital technologies, whether by booking GP appointments online or streaming our favourite TV programmes on demand. If we can achieve the same level of coalescence throughout the workplace, we’ll have made a great start to plugging the digital skills gap.

However, many of us will have seen the seemingly endless news headlines about the potential risks to jobs posed by robots, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other technologies. Meanwhile, last year’s House of Commons Science and Technology report found that a lack of digital skills costs the UK economy an estimated £63 billion in lost GDP every year.

With technology evolving at such a quick pace, it’s not surprising that we worry about what the future of work holds as we envisage a world where automation and AI render our jobs useless. Yet while it would be naïve to assume that these technologies will have no impact on jobs, it’s equally remiss to assume that mass redundancy is inevitable.

Throughout history, employment has continually evolved to suit the times, and while some roles will undoubtedly disappear as a result, there are many skills that will never be replaced by machines. Digital advancement will also result in new, exciting employment opportunities that harness these new technologies – as long as workers possess the right skills for the job. From basic computer literacy for young children to retraining parents and grandparents mid-career, a digitally literate workforce will require access to the right training if we are going to succeed as a nation.

It’s in the interests of technology companies like ours to work with the government and education providers to create and nurture a digitally competent workforce, and I’m proud to say that we have a long history of supporting national skills and improving technological literacy. The Cisco Networking Academy for example, has already helped 200,000 people in the UK train for digital careers over the past 20 years. Meanwhile, our recently launched Skills Manifesto builds on our belief that digital is the key to a skilled UK workforce and a successful economy.

In other words, we see technology as less of a problem than a huge opportunity for the UK if we get the approach to digital skills right.

Securing our digital future

That’s why we’re making free digital training accessible to everyone in the UK. This includes working with the Open University to equip teachers to deliver computer literacy classes in schools, and access to digital training in libraries. Starting with all 22 libraries in Greater Manchester, we’ll be extending this provision throughout the year.

Through our existing apprenticeships programme and 300 Networking Academies in the UK, we’re also continuing to work with all types of organisations – from schools, colleges and universities, to prisons, homeless shelters, schools for the blind, and with JobCentre+ – to promote and create more and more digital opportunities for the UK workforce.

Reaping rewards of digital

With the right approach to digital skills we can ensure that we are in a strong place to take advantage of the digital revolution and make technology work to boost productivity, grow the economy and create employment opportunities for a technologically-driven economy that will help us compete with the rest of the world.

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