Ash Merchant, Education Director at Fujitsu UK and Ireland, discusses how the digital skills gap among teachers is costing the UK economy…
The UK is facing a growing digital skills shortage, which is now estimated to cost small businesses £145,000 next year, and to impact the UK economy to the tune of £141 billion in lost GDP growth. As the UK approaches further political and economic disruption, these figures could worsen if the skills gap isn’t addressed.
With the rate of technology and digital innovation moving at an unprecedented pace, many people are feeling as though they’re struggling to keep up. And this goes double for those in the education sector, who are responsible for imparting that knowledge to the next generation. Consequently, it’s never been more important for them to be up to speed with emerging and new technologies, in order to best prepare the nation’s youth for the future of work in a modern and digital-first world.
Digital skills begin in the classroom
The next generation are digital natives. They have grown up in a connected world and have never experienced a life without computers or internet connectivity. What this means is that many students actually surpass their teachers when it comes to digital aptitude, and potentially leave teachers feeling unprepared to teach their students on such a crucial topic. Worse, if teachers themselves lack the right knowledge and skills, they won’t be able to adequately ensure students gain the skills necessary in the digital era.
Although it goes without saying that teachers want the digital skills to properly educate, we found that over half feel it’s difficult to keep up with technological change. And this is being felt by more than just teachers; according to government statistics, 11.3 million adults in the UK lack the basic digital skills required to operate effectively in day to day life – from activities such as sending emails or completing an online form and a further 4.3 million are said to have no digital skills at all.
Empowering the teacher
It’s clear that teachers need support when it comes to keeping up with technology, so it’s crucial that the technology industry makes an effort to arm them with the skills required to educate the next generation before they enter the workforce.
For example, at Fujitsu we have our Certificate of Digital Excellence (CoDE) programme. Understanding the need for the next generation to have the right skills when entering the industry, we created CoDE, a free, online learning experience for teachers, which helps educate them on topics such as Artificial Intelligence, IoT, cyber Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Big Data and Programming and Robotics. Each of these has been recognised as a technology or skill needed by the next generation to help with their future careers.
By empowering teachers with this knowledge, they can promote the best range of skills to students, while also providing excellent levels of knowledge to ensure we are fostering a generation that is equipped to compete in a digital Britain.
A collective responsibility
Ultimately, if we want to prepare the next generation to lead the way with the UK as a global tech hub, we need to focus our attention on investing in upskilling the teachers. To achieve this, the education sector not only has a responsibility to ensure its teachers and students have the most up to date and relevant education, but it’s also important that the technology companies who are creating the jobs of the future play a role in transferring the necessary skills.