Developing soft skills that help to diminish motivational barriers can encourage people to invest in learning new digital skills, finds a new report.
The conclusions have been published in Shocks, knocks and skill building blocks – a study by digital inclusion charity the Good Things Foundation (GTF). It is the culmination of a one-year programme of work produced in partnership with Accenture and Nesta.
The report emphasises the importance of soft skills development, noting that traits like increased confidence, sound decision-making and resilience help lay the foundations for the workforce to embrace digital skills which, in turn, enable them to succeed, professionally.
As the COVID-19 crisis wages on, its impact on the nation’s employment market is palpable. The Economic and Fiscal Outlook paper from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that UK unemployment will hit 2.6m by mid 2021, and with the pandemic cementing the importance of technology in society at large, those with greater digital capabilities will be better placed to land the most sought-after roles.
The coronavirus chaos has heightened competition across the country’s professional landscape, and candidates must now be conscientious, adaptable and highly digitally competent to stand out from their peers. Yet, while 82% of roles demand a range of digital skills, the Lloyds Consumer Digital Index 2020 revealed that more than half (52%) of working-age adults do not meet the requirement.
“With the UK in the grips of another national lockdown and nine million adults unable to use the internet without help, the government needs to demonstrate a strong commitment to fix the digital divide, to support economic recovery” – Helen Milner, chief executive, the Good Things Foundation
The Future Proof: Skills for Work programme – a collaboration between GTF, Accenture and Nesta – was thus designed to enhance specialist, digital, work-related skills, to assist the unemployed or underemployed in securing meaningful long-term employment.
Working with 13 community partners to advance more than 900 people, the programme sought to unravel the current barriers faced by learners, unpicking how these can be tackled to help close the UK’s growing digital skills gap.
Following completion of the programme – which has been delivered remotely since the first lockdown was enforced last March – 70% of participants claimed their digital capabilities had improved, while 68% confirmed they now feel better prepared for employment.
The biggest improvement in attitude came in resilience to facing challenges, with 27% of learners experiencing positive change in this area.
Helen Milner, chief executive of the Good Things Foundation, commented: “Working with Accenture, Nesta and our community partners, Future Proof has been ahead of the curve in terms of predicting new audience demand, skills and motivations and helping people gain digital skills alongside greater confidence and broader skills.
“Remote working due to COVID-19 has changed working patterns permanently. This makes upskilling the workforce even more vital. With the UK in the grips of another national lockdown and nine million adults unable to use the internet without help, the government needs to demonstrate a strong commitment to fix the digital divide, to support economic recovery.”