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December 06, 2016
Bridging the digital skills gap
By: Mohini Rao

In my recent blog on the UK skills gap, I highlighted that 12.6 million adults and 38 percent of small businesses lack digital skills. This skills gap is the main driver behind the slow uptake of technology by small businesses, alongside a lack of awareness around digital technology: trends that threaten to stunt the UK economy. As the UK weathers the storm of Brexit, optimising every part of our economy will be more important than ever, and this means ensuring small businesses can seize the opportunities afforded by digital.

Boosting digital skills gives small businesses the confidence, awareness and know-how to use digital tools to stay relevant, increase productivity and grow. Research has highlighted that lack of awareness, understanding and skill are the primary factors behind poor adoption of digital technologies. However, small businesses that embrace digital technology grow up to three times faster than those that don’t.

This provides an opportunity to create more employment opportunities within small businesses and connect them with young people who have been trained in digital and employability skills. This has the potential to go a long way towards bridging the digital skills gap and ensuring Britain’s economy prospers in this time of uncertainty.

Creating connections

As part of Accenture’s Skills to Succeed initiative, we’ve developed programmes to help SMEs access digital skills using our training materials and creating new delivery models. We have collaborated with partners across the employability ecosystem who share similar agendas in increasing digital inclusion across the UK, with a focus on both youth unemployment and helping small businesses grow

Our recent Digital Connect project in collaboration with Lloyds Bank, Doteveryone and Seetec is a great example. We piloted a delivery model which involved identifying small businesses and charities with potential to grow their digital capability. We offered them an in-depth digital capability workshop and, in parallel, recruited young jobseekers and provided them with digital skills training. The aim was to match the small businesses and charities to the young people for work experience.

Over 6,000 SMEs and charities were engaged, and over 100 businesses and charities were offered workshops. On average, 79 percent reported an increase in digital knowledge and expertise, and 51 percent reported an increase in confidence in using digital. Meanwhile, 90 percent of the jobseekers who participated achieved a Level 1 digital qualification, and 73 percent reported an increase in their digital skills.

The project demonstrated that connecting small businesses with young jobseekers offers a solution to the skills gap. Its strength lies in bringing two market challenges together and addressing them in a mutually beneficial way: finding work for those who need it while helping Britain maintain growth through a vibrant SME sector.

Towards a digital future

Given our uncertain economic future, it’s essential we, as businesses, play a role in helping to solve the skills crisis. With the Government planning to make the UK one of the most digitally-skilled nations, at Accenture, we have made it our priority to develop our digital capabilities to create new ways to help address youth unemployment.

If you’d like to hear more about the Digital Connect pilot, or take part in a similar programme, please feel free to contact me directly.

In my next blog I am going to be looking at how digital can be used as a solution to solve the skills gap at scale.

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