UK employers increase digital training budgets by 13% finds OU research

The Open University’s report, Bridging the Digital Divide, investigates the digital skills shortages and future of work in the UK

The Open University have released their latest report, which reveals that UK employers are increasing their digital training budgets to keep pace with technological change.

The OU report, Bridging the Digital Divide, shows that on average, organisations have increased their digital training budgets from £52,150 to £58,750 (an increase of 13%) in the past 12 months. More than a quarter (27%) have redirected their training budget to focus on digital skills.

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Employers expect nearly two in five (37%) job roles to alter significantly, or even become redundant, as a result of new digital technology and automation in the next five years. This is estimated to affect 12 million workers across the UK.

Despite this huge chance of change, the report reveals that only one in five (18%) employees realise that their role could be at risk.

Jane Dickinson, digital skills lead at The Open University, said: “Digital technologies have already disrupted entire industries. They have shaped the business environment of the future, where innovation is prized, and tech-powered startups can displace even the most entrenched incumbents.

“Yet, despite clear threats to the workforce and profitability, many organisations continue to underestimate the importance of building digital skills, and while many continue to take a short-term approach, the shortage will only continue to grow.”

Despite clear threats to the workforce and profitability, many organisations continue to underestimate the importance of building digital skills.
– Jane Dickinson, The OU

Nine in 10 (88%) organisations polled as part of the report admitted they have a shortage of digital skills, which is already having a significant negative impact on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness.

The gap continues to widen, with 50% of organisations predicting a downturn in profits if the situation remains the same.

However, although the majority of employers (78%) agreed that developing skills through training would be more sustainable, 55% believe that hiring in new workers would be a cheaper alternative.

Experts at The Open University suggest that now is the time for employers to develop a strong base of digital skills in addition to any specialist skills required, so that workers become more resilient, flexible and adaptable to future needs.

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Dickinson continued: “With an uncertain future posting a challenge to the future workforce, it is crucial that employers access the wealth of talent already within their organisation. By using training budgets to develop workers, including local skills retraining funding and apprenticeship levy funding, organisations can build up the skills they need.”

The full report can be accessed at

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