Mind the gap: The UK’s lack of ‘EdTech’


The pandemic has significantly changed the way in which multiple industries work. Many sectors have seen employees working from home for the last 4 months and many will continue to do so for the immediate future. One result of this has been a surge in demand for IT skills and IT literate employees as companies and employees adapt to working from home. Tech education, or edtech, has never been more important.

Despite this, a global survey of 9,000 employees conducted by Qlik and Accenture found a digital skills gap that costs UK businesses over £10 billion per year and the UK economy loses out on £63 billion per year. It is clear, then, that there needs to be somewhat of a national investment into edtech to bridge this gap and boost productivity.

It needs to be a national effort, something more than employers investing to upskill their employees. It needs to be the government investing in schemes in order to make its workforce more digitally astute. Further, many graduates are leaving higher education without basic digital capabilities. Therefore, universities need to invest in order to give graduates a chance of work in a world becoming more technology centred. Although, in the long term the government needs to support educational institutions to bridge the skills gap from early.

Why does ‘edtech’ need investment? Some commercial implications

Of course, there are the obvious reasons for investment - to reduce the £10 billion that is lost due to digital illiteracy and to boost productivity. Further, there is real evidence that supports the idea that employees who are more comfortable with technology are more productive.

For instance, the Data Literacy Project found that 74% of employees felt “overwhelmed or unhappy working with data, impacting their overall performance” and almost 36% would find alternatives to using data to complete their tasks.

There is a more pressing reason though, as to why the digital skills gap needs bridging. As the country plunges into a recession, and the furlough scheme comes to an end, a wave of unemployment is likely to follow. The technology industry, however, has kept the country going through lockdown and forced even the most traditional industries to digitalise.

Consequently, technology will be central to the country’s recovery and it will demand a workforce with the necessary digital prowess to fuel it.

Lastly, edtech will also help unemployment stemming from struggling industries, such as retail, by increasing labour mobility. This will upskill people and help them move into growing sectors.

The legal implications

Basic edtech, or rather the lack thereof, could have some serious legal implications. As data is increasingly used in everyday work, employees, outside of those in data protection, need to know how to use it within the confines of the Data Protection Act 2018. Otherwise, employers could face hefty fines. Whilst, the rise of data breaches only serves to strengthen this argument.

Will the digital skills gap be filled, or will it continue to grow? Like many things right now it is uncertain and only time will tell.

Abu Sattar

Abu is a law graduate with aspirations of becoming a commercial solicitor. His legal interests are in property, data protection and technology, but with enough information he can have an opinion on anything. He also wants to see and work towards greater diversification of the legal sector, particularly of more senior roles.

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