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Digital skills

Major research partnership seeks to find and address barriers to digital skills

A young man hunches over a laptop, working. Big windows can be seen in the background, alongside some notebooks and a lamp.

The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the extent of the digital divide in Britain; 1.5 million households are without access to the internet and 22% of the UK population lack basic digital skills.  Current ONS statistics for the first quarter of the year show that long-term unemployment is rising at its fastest since 2010, and for young people it’s at its highest in 5 years.  When you combine this with statistics suggesting that 17.3 million people are estimated not to have the essential digital skills they need for work, and within 20 years 90% of all jobs will require digital skills of some kind, it’s clear that more needs to be done.

Catch22, Nominet and Livity have come together to develop a research programme, which will produce a series of papers over the next 12 months, looking at the root causes for why so many young people remain excluded from work, specifically within digital roles. Bean Research will conduct the research as we seek to identify what the scale of the problem really is, what is and is not working, and how we can change things for the better.

Chris Ashworth, Head of Public Benefit at Nominet said:

“Whilst there have been many efforts over the last number of years to close the digital skills gap – both for the digital economy and to address underemployment and social mobility, real evidenced and sustainable change has evaded us. There are still far too many young people, particularly from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups not finding pathways into tech or digital careers. And there are still too many roles, from entry level upwards that are chronically hard to recruit for.

“We can’t continue to repeat the same approaches expecting a different outcome. These papers are the start of a more forensic inspection of why these dynamics have been so hard to shift, what’s working – what’s not, why, and why not? What lessons can we draw from successful change elsewhere, and how we might need to adapt and develop initiatives that really work for people, for employers and for the UK economy.”

Kat Dixon, Director of Partnerships at Catch22 said:

“Digital careers offer real opportunity for people to thrive. This isn’t just about jobs in tech companies – more and more organisations need digital capabilities, and roles with a digital component tend to offer better progression and pay, and the UK economy has a big gap to fill.

“We’ve made great strides in tackling the digital divide and unlocking opportunities for the most disadvantaged. But we know that representation across minority groups isn’t where it needs to be. We need greater understanding of the mechanisms for change, and to ensure the people we support have their voices heard.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to look under the bonnet and get a real sense of what works and what doesn’t, so collectively we can make better decisions for the future.”

The insights from these papers will inform a set of recommendations, which will support Catch22, Nominet and Livity in their work to tackle systemic inequality. Catch22 will be leading the project in collaboration with Nominet and Livity.