Digital apprenticeships offer ‘game-changing potential’ but more needed – MPs

The Commons Science and Technology Committee has called for action to tackle the emerging digital skills gap. According to the committee, more 12 million adults are lacking basic digital know-how, with the education system largely to blame.

The committee highlighted what it said was a “digital divide” with up to 12.6 million adults in the UK lacking basic skills, with an estimated 5.8 million never having used the internet at all.

Digital apprenticeships are flagged up by the committee as critical for offering long-term potential. “…Only the computing curriculum and widespread take-up of digital apprenticeships offer game-changing potential, and their impact may not be evident for a generation,” states the report. However, the scale of the digital gap requires further intervention.

The UK needs 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.

Digital skills should be one of the core components, alongside maths and english, in all apprenticeships, not just ‘digital apprenticeships’, making it the focus of the government’s three million apprenticeships target.

“This will help to ensure the long-term future of the UK’s economy, as would simplifying the apprenticeship scheme’s processes to encourage SMEs to invest in them. The qualifying requirements for the new IT roles under the Tier 2 visa should be reviewed, making it easier and more flexible for employers to recruit the best talent globally.”

 

‘Concerted action’ needed

“Digital exclusion has no place in 21st century Britain,” the committee added.

“While the government is to be commended for the actions taken so far to tackle aspects of the digital skills crisis, stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems with digital education and training need to be addressed as a matter of urgency in the government’s forthcoming digital strategy.”

Committee chairwoman Nicola Blackwood said: “The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need.”