MPs urge action to close digital skills gap


The Science and Technology Committee has warned that Britain faces falling behind international competitors because of a shortage of digital skills.

A new report calls for a series of measures, including the introduction of post-graduate ‘conversion courses’, to improve the UK’s technological capabilities.

The committee said systemic problems with digital education and training were costing the economy an estimated £63bn a year in lost income.

According to the committee, 12.6 million British adults lack basic digital skills, and 5.8 million have never used the internet.

An audit of IT equipment in schools found 22% was ineffective and only 35% of computer science teachers had a relevant qualification. Despite the UK needing an estimated 745,000 additional workers with digital skills by 2017, the government had been able to recruit just 70% of the computer science teachers it needed.

They argue digital skills should be made a core component of all apprenticeships, and for a review to consider whether it should be made easier to bring in non-EU citizens to fill IT jobs in the UK.

Committee chair, Nicola Blackwood, said: “We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships.

The Government’s long-delayed Digital Strategy must now be published without delay, and it must deliver.

“The Government has introduced a range of measures to help, particularly by expanding the scale of the apprenticeship programme and introducing a new computer curriculum in schools, but it needs urgently to present a vision and coherent strategy that brings these together.”

A Government spokesperson said: “This Government recognises the crucial role digital skills play in our society and economy. Our Digital Strategy, to be published shortly, will set out how we will help employers and individuals access the tools they need to power our digital economy.”