Employers in Scotland expect almost a fifth (18%) of job roles to alter significantly or become redundant as a result of new technology in the next five years – affecting nearly 476,000 Scottish employees. The startling finding is one of several emerging from the OU’s latest report, Bridging the Digital Divide.
Although 43% of Scots employers expect to fill most new roles with existing staff, 70% are currently experiencing a shortage in digital skills, with the biggest shortages coming in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud-based technologies.
This could be bad news for the Scottish economy, with three-quarters (74%) of Scottish businesses saying this is already affecting productivity, and the same proportion expecting the lack of skills to impact on their organisation’s agility and adaptability in the future.
Nearly three in five (57%) believe the solution is regular re-training to keep digital skills up to date. More than a fifth (22%) say staff have had some digital skills training in the last year, with almost half (43%) of those reporting an increase in productivity.
However, across the UK, only one in five (18%) employees realise their role could potentially be at risk.
While only half (48%) of employees are interested in receiving training to improve their digital skills or retrain, UK business leaders recognise the need to invest in skills in order to mitigate redundancies and remain productive.
On average, UK organisations have increased digital training budgets by 13 per cent in the past 12 months - from £52,150 to £58,750, while more than a quarter (27%) have redirected their training budget to focus on digital skills training.
More than half (52%) of UK organisations report that new developments are coming too quickly for them to keep up with the skills required and making it difficult to plan for the future. Additionally, half (50%) of UK organisations believe that Brexit could inhibit their access to talent.
However, UK organisations are starting to see the benefits of lifelong learning when it comes to digital skills. The majority (85%) of senior leaders agree that it will become necessary to move to a model of continuous training and education in future, where employees are constantly developing and building new skills.
And this also comes with other benefits, with UK employers reporting increased productivity (41%) and better engagement (31%) amongst those who have received training.
As the technological revolution continues, the skills required will continue to change, but experts at The Open University suggest that it is crucial that all employers develop a strong base of digital skills in addition to specialist skills required now, allowing workers to become more agile and adaptable to future needs.
Those with higher-level skills will be able to apply their knowledge effectively and find innovative solutions to emerging issues, and organisations can bring new skills into the workforce quickly by offering relevant short-courses and top-up training.
Marie Hendry, Depute Director of The Open University in Scotland, said:
“This report helps to lay bare the stark reality of the fourth industrial revolution, demonstrating the massive impact technological change is already having on business.
"With almost all employers reporting a lack of digital skills among their workforces, it’s essential that businesses consider their needs and invest in their staff to ensure a sustainable future for their organisation.
“We know the benefits of flexible learning, enabling people to earn and learn at the same time, in and outside the workplace. It’s clear that business leaders see the need to develop a lifelong learning culture, at work and in communities across Scotland.
"Supporting employees to develop digital skills will give Scottish businesses the tools and agility they need to navigate technological change and embrace the opportunities that emerge.”
Further details on the digital skills shortage, and what businesses can do to abate it, can be found in The Open University’s new report Bridging The Digital Divide.
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