TC Global Insights

Global Employability

Digital Skills Gap – A Look at the Landscape

In a pre-COVID world, there existed a considerable digital-skills gap, even in some of the most advanced countries in the world. Now, with technology defining the way we work and live, it’s widened all the more.

The problem is twofold, One, of course, is the pre-existing gap – the demand is more than the supply. The other is the fact that even those who had the digital skills now need to up-skill, because of the pandemic-induced change in work trends. .

Many economies worldwide are, thus, are faced with the lack of a digitally skilled workforce and the inability to fill IT-related needs. The World Economic Forum estimates that 54% of employees will need significant reskilling by 2022. And while reskilling or upskilling is being adopted by many companies, it hasn’t proved to be as feasible and smooth as transitioning in fresh digitally skilled workforces.

Even the most tech-advanced countries are facing challenges. Ireland is a case in point. Even though it is a largely tech-focused economy, it too faces the challenge of constantly needing to upskill or replace the older workers with fresh graduates (who may be more digitally savvy). Bridging this digital skills gap, thus, is an ever-continuing cycle of constantly focusing both on the present and the future workforce without which the setup will stagnate or economies crumble.

The Indian landscape

India was one of the first countries to successfully tap into the first IT demand wave and has been consistent in developing highly skilled digital workforces. However, with digital transformation constantly changing the way we work, there has also been a steep increase in the gap between the demand for IT professionals and the talent pool the country is producing.

Udemy’s Global Skills Gap Report 2019-20 found 92% of full-time employees in India agree there is a gap in skill set in the country with a further 76% admitting they felt affected by it. A co-curated research by Simplilearn and People Matters on Digital Readiness in the Indian workplace found 87% of companies agreeing with the need for digital skilling of their workforce. On the flip side of the coin, 65% of these companies had no roadmap whatsoever to bring in digital skilling.

A 2018 Nasscom survey on the Talent Demand and Supply Report on the Indian IT industry gave some interesting insights into the skills gap that exists in the AI and Big Data Analytics sector in the country. That year, the demand for AI and BDA talent in India was estimated to be around 510,000 but only a talent pool of 370,000 was employed in these sectors. The same study projected the demand for these talents to reach 800,000 in 2021 but with a lower employed talent pool of just 570,000.

To bridge the ever-widening gap and to promote Digital skilling as a national priority, Nasscom Future Skills, along with Microsoft launched a nationwide initiative in September 2020 that aims to skill 1 million students in AI by 2021.

A global gap

The gap in the demand and supply of talent pool in digital skill isn’t limited only to India. It is believed that Two-thirds of the jobs created in the last decade require either high or moderate digital skills. The Global Skills Gap Report 2019-20 by Udemy also points to 62% of employees worldwide personally feeling affected due to the skills gap in their jobs. Even highly developed countries such as the USA, the UK, and Ireland aren’t faring any better when it comes to competency in digital skills among their workforce. A research on 908 prominent marketers across the USA, the UK, and Ireland carried out by the Digital Marketing Institute saw these countries yield a low average of 38% on skills level in digital marketing; failing to achieve entry-level competency.

At a glance, most economies worldwide are struggling to bridge the digital skills gap. There were as many as 7 million unfilled jobs in the US during the start of 2019 with employers citing the inability to find qualified workers to fill these positions. In the UK, Open University’s Bridging the Digital Divide report found that nine (88%) in ten organizations admitted to having a shortage of digital skills. The same report highlighted that 37% of jobs are expected to alter significantly in the next 5 years which may lead to 12 million employees in the UK getting directly affected. In Ireland, a study of 380 marketers by the Digital Marketing Institute deduced that 8 out of 10 marketers failed to achieve entry-level competency while senior marketers were found to be 26% less knowledgeable than their entry-level counterparts. A combined survey on 600 Australian businesses by the RMIT and Deloitte cited that 88% of employers struggled to find staff with the skills required highlighting the widening digital skills gap in Australia.

Bridging the gap

The demand for digitally skilled workforces is set to grow exponentially in the years to come with the speed at which new technological trends are taking place. The twofold options of either upskilling or training new graduates provide economies with the solution to close the widening digital skills gap. As the age of big data and technology presents opportunities for businesses and economies worldwide, the race for the new gold rush is on. Who strikes gold will depend on the abilities of businesses and economies to seamlessly transition their workforce into digital workspaces.

Date added
15.10.2020

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Global Employability

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