The digital skills gap is becoming a digital skills crisis. A global survey shows that nearly 90 percent of executives are experiencing skills shortages within their workforce, or expect to do so within the next few years. In Europe, to take an example, 90 percent of employers require workers to have at least basic digital skills, while only around 60 percent of citizens over 16 meet this standard. The story is similar in North America, Latin America and Asia.
Re-qualification of workers is essential not only for the global economy to recover from the pandemic, but also for long-term sustainable growth and an inclusive future workforce. Unless G20 countries invest to close the skills gap, they could miss an estimate $ 11.5 trillion of cumulative GDP growth by 2028.
Vala Afshar: When we talk about the digital skills gap, what do we really mean?
Simon Mulcahy: Fundamentally, it’s a question of supply and demand: a mismatch between the need for a digitally savvy workforce and the availability of workers trained in those skills. Every organization, whether it’s a bank, healthcare company, or retailer, is becoming a digital organization. Basic digital skills are not the responsibility of a single department, but increasingly integrated into almost every job on the planet.
On the other hand, there is a massive shortage of skills needed to function and lead in a digitally driven environment. More importantly, there is no mechanism in place to fix it.
VA: What kinds of skills are in high demand?
SM: Of course, we need workers with technical expertise in areas such as coding, artificial intelligence, user experience design, and cloud computing. But we also need people who have the soft skills to take advantage of technology to solve real world problems.
Every business unit needs to know how to create digital experiences that effectively serve customers. Managers need to train and empower employees in a digitally driven world. And executives and boards need to be digital savvy enough to deal with issues like cybersecurity and privacy.
VA: What are the main reasons for the lack of digital skills?
SM: Even before the pandemic, most industries were undergoing a major digital transformation. Technology has evolved at lightning speed and customers increasingly demand personalized service on the channel of their choice. Companies have come under enormous pressure to reinvent themselves in order to stay competitive, which has fueled the demand for digital skills.
COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated this digital migration, pushing businesses of all sizes around the world to digitize at record speed. The pandemic has ushered in a seismic shift in mindset about the way we live, work and consume, which has only widened the already large skills gap.
Unlike the rapid pace of innovation, we have seen stagnation when it comes to arming workers with the right skills. Historically, education has been viewed as a once in a lifetime experience that you take advantage of throughout your career. With the exception of management training, the system is always set up this way. This outdated mindset means that a large percentage of the world’s population have not acquired the skills necessary to prepare for a rapidly digitizing world.
VA: G20 countries could miss out on trillions of dollars in growth if nothing changes. If we do nothing to address the digital skills crisis now, what would be the impact?
SM: People are hungry for products and services that they can consume digitally. If this happens effectively, then money changes hands and demand fuels economic growth. In a world where this does not happen, growth is limited and there is more demand for less. The price of these great digital deals goes up and you will see winners and losers.
Above all, these gains and losses will be unfairly distributed. Women, underrepresented minorities and people in the developing world who struggle to access digital skills will find it much harder to join the digital revolution and risk being left behind.
VA: What can be done to close this growing gap and what role should companies play?
SM: We need to reorganize the way we deliver education. Of course, we have to build a foundation from the start, but there are much better ways to equip people than through exams that don’t scale to match the needs of society or with degrees that force young people to go. debt heavily.
Instead, we should see ourselves as lifelong learners. To support this, we need just-in-time training that is built into our work experience and relevant to where we are in our career path. We need education that is widely available, easy to access and affordable. It should be easy to hone our skills or acquire the knowledge we need to steer us down a different path. We also need the education to be much more personal, corresponding to the needs of an individual at the time.
All of this requires massive innovation, and this is where the private sector comes in. So far, we have left it to educators or the government to fix the education system, but businesses must become more active partners in revolutionizing education. They are the ones who know the skills they need and who know how to innovate.
VA: What are some examples of companies that are on the right track?
SM: Startups like Coursera and the Khan Academy demonstrated the promise of an immersive and modern online learning experience without the traditional burden of costs. Companies like GE founded a training initiatives who integrate lifelong learning into their corporate culture. Starting point, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, is also a revolutionary model that helps people with low technical skills access roles in the Salesforce ecosystem from anywhere and at their own pace. Its certifications and micro-degrees are an example of moving away from dependence on degrees in favor of personalized educational experiences. The Salesforce Trailblazer community allows members to share knowledge and help each other navigate the educational process, as well as solve market mechanism issues by helping people find relevant opportunities.
Ultimately, all businesses should see themselves as educational businesses. Their mission is no longer just to produce products and services, but also to integrate educational experiences into the context of work. Democratization of education is essential to bridge the digital skills gap and ensure a fair distribution of the fruits of technological innovation.