Just yesterday, the BBC revealed that “Urgent action is needed to deal with the UK’s digital skills crisis”.

We’re all familiar with what ‘skills gaps’ look like in certain industries that have been tackling skills challenges for a while now, but what do they look like in the digital world?

According to the BBC,

  • The UK needs another 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017 (that’s next year!)
  • 90% of jobs require digital skills to some degree

And what’s the impact if we don’t meet these requirements? Well, skills gaps cost the economy around £63bn a year in lost income (BBC).

These figures are astounding and it appears there is a lot to do in a very short amount of time.

The question that these headlines prompted us to ask is; where is the mismatch? Universities are producing tonnes of ‘digital’ graduates every year, in disciplines from Computer Science to Digital Media Studies, yet these graduates do not seem to be hitting the right chord with employers.

In fact, Computer Science graduates face the highest unemployment rates of all degree disciplines (11.4%) six months after leaving university.

So, companies are crying out for employees with strong digital capabilities, yet the digitally-skilled graduate population are struggling to find employment.

This begs the question; do companies know what ‘good’ looks like? Are they striving for an ‘ideal’ – a digitally skilled graduate with the business acumen and soft skills of an experienced recruit, and being disappointed when they cannot find the complete package?

In order to ensure skills gaps don’t widen and impact business performance, organisations may need to start looking at attracting talent differently.  Despite the technical skills required for the role, employers still need to remember the importance of recruiting on individuals’ values, attitude and behaviours.

If companies can find graduates that share their values and are a good ‘cultural’ fit, can they then provide the technical skills required through specialised training courses?

Likewise, some more technically minded graduates may need support in making the transition from academia to the work place, which can be achieved through professional development programmes like our OPEN Programme for Graduates. Expecting this new generation of digital experts to be fully developed, both technically and commercially, at the start of their careers is perhaps a little ambitious.

Nevertheless, it is excellent to see initiatives like the BBC’s Make It Digital campaign inspiring students as young as 10 to get involved in digital projects. From creating games to going backstage at live events and exploring the world of virtual reality, these opportunities are inspiring a new generation to create, invent and learn how the technological world operates. Encouraging digital interaction with young people now may go some way to closing these skills gaps in the future.

For now, it’s a case of looking at the excellent talent our world-class universities are producing and developing them appropriately for business success.