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Co-founder of lastminute.com: "We must skill-up the British workforce"

Co-founder of lastminute.com: "We must skill-up the British workforce"

Digital skillsIf you're reading this blog, you already have an established standard of digital skills.

But, there are around 11 million UK adults who don't have the basic skills required to access the wealth of information available online, says Baroness Martha Lane Fox CBE, co-founder of lastminute.com.

In itself, this cavernous skills shortage is shocking. As we discussed recently, the World Wide Web is now 25 years old - yet millions of people within the UK don't have the capability to send an email or transact safely online. And many of those people are out of work, too.

"If you don’t have basic digital skills, how can you search and apply for jobs online, or format your CV, and so on?" asks Baroness Lane Fox, in a LondonLovesBusiness column.

The skills shortage is not just a startling statistic, it is also a concern for the future of the UK economy, and a particular worry for the UK's IT and telecoms sector.

"A robust economy will have technology at its heart, so we need people equipped with digital skills," she commented. "This country is going to need one million ICT (Information & Communications Technology) jobs by 2020. At the moment we can’t even fill our existing ICT jobs, let alone the next million."

Baroness Lane Fox touches on the need for businesses to equip themselves for the future by investing in digital skills. Without that drive, they face the risk of falling behind and further damaging the skills shortage in Britain.

Various schemes are already in place such as the government's introduction of coding and programming in schools, set to come into play this September, and other initiatives such as digitalskills.com and Go ON UK, of which Baroness Lane Fox chairs the board.

However it's still not enough. More training is required to "skill-up" the British workforce, and Lane Fox believes "we need a big shift in culture to address our digital skills shortfalls."

What can businesses do to help?

Investment is the first step. Businesses that do not keep up with the digital age face getting left behind - and worse. So, bring in people who are digital champions. Whether you hire permanent talent, work with startups or recruit specialist outsourced help, surround yourself by driven people who really understand technology and what it can do for your business.

Then, make it part of your company culture. Embrace technology and work to equip your staff with enhanced digital skills. It is not just about survival in a world that's dependent on technology, and it's not just about having a website or launching an app. There are infinite opportunities available which can enhance your business from the ground up.

Whether it's improving your business centre systems to save staff time and streamline procedures, or implementing a transactional website to take bookings online, or exploring 'smart' technology to create an environment that's in-tune with your clients' needs... the possibilities are endless.

Is your business digital-savvy? Can the same be said for your staff? Do you have a high level of online investment?

We'll be discussing the role of technology and the enormous opportunities it represents at BCA Conference 2014, and how embracing the potential of technology can generate impressive returns for your business, both now and in the future.

In the words of Baroness Lane Fox: "Technology is moving at an incredibly rapid pace. Businesses will not survive if they don’t put digital at the heart of everything they do.

"Just do something to get involved in the incredible pace of change."


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