If you’re reading this, you have at least a semblance of digital intelligence. If you haven’t been formally educated, you most likely learned it by immersion. If not, you should amend that, because, at this point in history, no one can deny the massive digital transformation changing the world around us. Whether for work or for play, we’re mobile, we’re social and we’re hyper-synced at all times. As this transformation continues to evolve the world in which we interact every day, we have to make sure we’re paying attention to one of the biggest forecasted challenges looming for our workforces in the next decade: the digital skills gap.
What is it and why must we close it:
This “digital skills gap” exists because employees don’t know the right technology tool to use for their job, how to properly use technology tools at their disposal, and/or how to problem-solve to learn the skills they need to continue to grow. And it’s costing the U.S. economy roughly $1 trillion a year in lost productivity. And this gap continues to grow as technology needs in the workplace continue to grow (and its not stopping anytime soon).
A real quick note of the state-of-the-digital-union
The European Commission predicted information and communication technology professionals by 2020.
“Nine in ten jobs that we’re creating right now require some form of digital literacy.”
Additionally, the gap costing the U.S. economy roughly $1 trillion a year in lost productivity
By 2020, the digital economy could contribute an astounding $20 trillion to the global economy.
Nearly eight in 10 middle-skill jobs require digital skills. Spreadsheet and word processing proficiencies have become a baseline requirement for the majority of middle-skill opportunities (78%).
Digitally intensive middle-skill occupations are growing faster than other middle-skill jobs. Digitally intensive jobs have grown 2.5 times more rapidly than middle-skill jobs that do not require spreadsheets, word processing, or other digital skills (between 2003 and 2013, 4.7% growth for digitally intensive jobs compared to 1.9% growth for other positions).
Digitally intensive middle-skill occupations offer 18% higher wages on average than middle-skill jobs that do not require a digital component
Tomorrow’s opportunities depend on our ability as a society, to achieve digital literacy today. Here are a few suggestions for those of us in the digital space to do, to help close the gap:
Advocate to educate
Businesses in the center of technology are best positioned to influence educators about the core skills needed to drive modern industry. At the end of the day, its our businesses that suffer from the shortage of skilled workers. Through thought leadership and advocacy, we must use the power of our own voices and channels to spread the message to those unaware of the shortage, and the type of educational programs needed to fill the shortages. It’s not just learning the tools, it’s acquiring the skills to continue learning the tools as they evolve. We must advocate for the right syllabi, fight for equal access to education and vote in our local and state elections to do our duty, whether we have kids in the system or not, to ensure the future workforce learns the skills they need for them (and us) to be successful.
Make the mission inclusive
Broad community support for learning digital skills is essential. It is everyone’s mission to inspire and educate the next generation — no matter your degree or level of experience. You don’t have to be a master of digital skills to advocate for them: parents, schools, governments, businesses and the broader community, should be invested in giving our future a chance to acquire the skills needed to succeed in the evolving economy. This means letting everyone be part of the conversation, as well as making sure access to the education needed for these skills is equitable — not only for kids, but for youth and adults.
For a lot of information technology communications, we speak in acronyms and frame data as we would if we were speaking to a class of 4th year analytics majors. Instead, we should be speaking as if we’re inviting new friends to our conversation. Explain the acronyms. Distill meaning from the data. Clear communication is vital not only to keeping someone’s interest, but also in promoting feelings of inclusion and access.
Reach out and mentor
Imaginuity has deep roots education, teaching kids in South Dallas html back when floppy disks were actually floppy, and the quickest access you had to email was through the computer lab in your dorm (and even then, you didn’t even really use it). We also actively seek and employ interns across every department, and have adjunct professors and community advocates on staff. Reaching out and mentoring is in our blood. We know the importance of volunteering, the value positive role models have in the community, and the economic (and emotional) return you can get on that investment.
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, said, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Closing the digital gap isn’t just about teaching kids how to do the things we get paid for. Sometimes, it’s going to help them by just being there. Working with them as they do daily activities, and being a role model in doing so. Whether you’re a web programmer or data analyst or a marketer who communicates through digital means, when you show these kids you care, its enough to inspire them to pursue a career in your field. When children are inspired by seeing someone with an exciting and fulfilling career, they can be inspired to learn the digital skills fundamental to a path in that career.
Lastly, there are more advantages to bridging the digital skills gap that are much larger than creating a sustainable digital workforce that can continue to advance technology at the speed of demand. Closing the gap creates economic health, economic equality, social mobility, democracy and economic growth.
Having the digital skills needed to be successful is a power some of us take for granted, until we’re explaining something we think is easy to our dads or moms, or someone we’re surprised doesn’t quite “get it.” With that power, comes the great responsibility for those of us who are able, to make sure we do what we can to make that power accessible to all.
For more information on efforts to bridge the gap, visit: http://tech.ed.gov/netp/ and https://community.lincs.ed.gov/discussion/crunched-numbers-digital-skills-gap-workforce
Sources and additional reading: