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The pandemic has changed the working world drastically. Businesses have gone under, and most of the world has had to get used to remote working.

While lockdowns have eased and workers are heading back into the office, many businesses have decided to stay either wholly or partially remote. This means the current workforce must be prepared to embrace new, technology-driven ways of working.

What Is the Digital Skills Shortage?

More and more businesses are turning to digital transformation, where technology is integrated into all business areas to change operations and deliver better value fundamentally.

Currently, over 70% of organizations have a digital transformation strategy, but it’s believed that only 61% of the working-age population in the UK has the necessary digital skills. The most basic of these skills include:

  • Managing information, such as using a search engine
  • Communication via email or online messaging
  • Buying items or services online
  • Problem-solving using online help
  • Completing online application forms

The demand for these digital skills remains high, but the supply is startlingly low. A government report revealed that 82% of all jobs in the UK list digital skills as a requirement. Last year, employers struggled to fill one-third of the vacancies due to a lack of digital competency.

Of this limited number of skilled workers, only 28% currently participate in training programs. The most evident barriers to this are lack of time and guidance on professional development pathways.

Digital transformation is strategic and requires a cultural change where businesses must invest in learning and training programs to ready their employees for a new way of working.

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The Benefits of Upskilling Employees

More and more companies are investing time and money into upskilling their workforce to prepare them for digital transformation projects. A highly skilled workforce is one of the best ways to future-proof a business while being better prepared for the changes that come naturally in the digital age, such as new technologies and dynamic consumer trends.

Upskilling is also a huge benefit to employees. A study by Salesforce shows that 70% of employees receiving this training are more engaged at work, leading to higher employee satisfaction rates. Offering this training can also mean higher retention rates for businesses, as around 93% of millennials and Gen-Z workers now expect employees to provide learning opportunities in their job roles.

There are many learning services available to working professionals. These range from one-off LinkedIn Learning videos and certifications that allow employees to learn when they want or entire learning courses that offer workshops, individual tutorials, dedicated points of contact and more.

The Skills Toolkit. At the height of the pandemic, the UK government introduced free online learning through The Skills Toolkit, which included courses covering practical maths, computer essentials, professional development, business and finance, and many more. All of these courses are designed to help gain new skills and/or change jobs, with each covering skills highly valued by employers.

Short online courses. Several learning platforms offer a range of courses for many different sectors. These platforms provide quick, practical courses, many of which lead to certifications that can be added to online profiles and resumes. Some of these services are LinkedIn Learning, HubSpot Academy, Udemy and SkillShare. Access to these short courses is often paid, though some do offer free alternatives.

Online learning programs. While these short online courses tend to be the first option for many looking into upskilling, more extended learning programs can offer comprehensive, productive learning environments with industry-recognized certifications. These courses can offer the flexibility of starting immediately and provide support through one-to-one tutorials with experts and easy access to learning platforms with content to help further learning when not in classes.

The impact of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns will be felt for years to come. Businesses no longer run as they once did, and potential and current employees must learn about new technologies to keep themselves updated with the demand. At the same time, companies must offer these training opportunities to combat the skills shortage. Online learning is an excellent way for businesses to encourage a culture of upskilling, satisfy employees and keep retention rates high while running profitably and efficiently.