Only by improving infrastructure and delivering more training will we help millions adjust to the new digital ageby Jo Stevens / August 31, 2020 / Leave a comment
Like many of us, my days now revolve around my laptop. We’re spending more and more time online. Our social lives have become Zoom drinks with friends, virtual trips to the theatre and oh so many quizzes.
The transition to a digital economy has only been accelerated by Covid-19, as huge numbers of people work from home. For some, the pandemic was the catalyst they needed to finally find out how their iPad really worked. Millions were forced by necessity to learn how to videoconference, or find an excuse to call that relative or friend who might know how to edit a PDF.
Many are learning on the job, but it need not be this way. To deliver a better digital future, Labour knows how vital skills training is—the days of learning IT at school and then leaving it behind at the school gates are over. It is more important than ever that opportunities for lifelong learning are available to all, both in and out of employment. Britain must rise to a once-in-a-generation challenge.
Firstly, the government needs to do more to incentivise investment in workplace training. The 2019 Open University Business Barometer showed that 68 per cent of businesses struggled to find people with the correct skillset to fill vacancies, with 34 per cent of businesses raising a problematic lack of digital and ICT skills as their primary (and growing) concern. The Learning and Work Institute points to a decade of decline in UK workplace training, with investment in employees down £5.1bn in real terms over the period, meaning we are falling further behind most other developed nations.
Equally, the state cannot shrink from its role: providing greater assistance to those both in and out of work to access the additional help they need, filling the gaps in the support network. Too often, we have become reliant on the patchwork respite of charities and councils to ameliorate a nationwide problem after a decade of underfunding. For many, being stuck at home without the skills to get online leaves them feeling more excluded.
Next, we must complement a holistic, cradle-to-grave skills strategy…