Research published today by the Open University has found that the vast majority of companies in the UK face a technological skills gap, prompting Fujitsu’s regional HR director to call for urgent action to be taken on UK digital skills.

The Open University’s Bridging the Digital Divide report found that 88% of organisations said they had a shortage of digital skills – and that this was already harming the ability of UK businesses to compete internationally.

For Jason Fowler, HR director at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, the news is a sign that action needs to be taken immediately to combat the lack of UK digital skills.

“Digital skills are key to driving effective change using technology, which is why it’s worrying to see that such a large proportion of organisations admit their staff lack digital skills. With the skills gap costing our economy £63bn a year, there is an urgent need to funnel more efforts into investing in the UK workforce,” he said.

“If we don’t, there is a risk we won’t be able to keep up with the pace of change that is taking place.”

Rethinking learning to combat the UK digital skills gap

Key to combatting a shortage in digital skills is, according to the Open University (OU), a move from the traditional educational model, which sees most employees stop formal learning once they leave school or higher education, to lifelong learning.

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This would see continuous learning become the norm for the vast majority of employees throughout their career – and is something that 85% of senior leaders believe is necessary, according to the OU.

For Fowler, this also means that work needs to be done not only by businesses, but by the UK government – particularly given the economic damage a lack of digital skills can wreak.

“To sustain the competitiveness of the technology sector and to drive forward the UK economy, businesses, government and educational institutions need to come together to train and educate the current workforce and the next generation of workers so they are utilising new technologies and are ready for the jobs of tomorrow,” he said.

“Whether this is retraining programmes, apprenticeships, or public-private partnerships, there are many exciting and innovative pathways to ensure that the UK is digitally savvy.

“If we want to continue to see the UK as a ‘digital first’ nation we must ensure we are investing in all talent. From the current workforce to those at the very beginning of the journey, by developing the right skills we will be able to support the future digital economy.”

Read more: Are new digital skills qualifications enough to arm the future workforce?