22 December 2017

Hard on the heels of the Future of Work Commission’s report identifying the new technological revolution as the single most important driver of change in the world of work, comes research highlighting the UK’s digital skills gap.

Productivity growth in the UK will continue to stall without Government and industry action to tackle a digital skills deficit in small businesses the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) claims. In its report “Learning the Ropes — Skills and training in small businesses” (http://bit.ly/2B9PcdK), the FSB reveals that 26% of business owners in England lack confidence in their basic digital skills and 22% believe a similar lack of basic skills among their staff is holding them back from increasing their digital and online presence.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the evidence that better digital capability spurs growth, 25% of small firms still do not consider these skills to be important to the growth of their business.

Embracing digital technology can help businesses in every sector be more productive, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry argued, while firms risk being left behind unless they have the skills to take advantage of technology to remain competitive and responsive to their customers.

“We need to highlight the benefits of going digital and then make sure that small businesses and their staff can access basic digital skills training that meets their needs through initiatives like the National Retraining Scheme,” he added.

Rapid technological change is not the only pressure on businesses, the FSB points out. Brexit makes upskilling the current workforce more important than ever, but small firms can struggle to find the time and money for training.

With regard to self-employed people — who can also find it difficult to take time out for training courses — Mr Cherry suggests that the Government should offer them tax breaks for developing new skills.