Improving digital skills for employability

This report summarises research exploring challenges for support to improve employability through digital skills for people facing significant disadvantage.

Digital is changing our lives, our jobs, how we run our businesses and manage our money. This means that having the digital skills, motivation and confidence to use the internet safely is becoming essential for life and work. This report summarises research exploring challenges for support to improve employability through digital skills for people facing significant disadvantage, and initial recommendations on how to overcome these.

Digitisation, automation and globalisation will continue to change the world of work. The ONS has reported that automation is set to impact large parts of the economy, with 1.5 million people or 7.4% of workers at high risk, the majority of these being women (70.2%) or younger people aged 20 to 24 years (ONS, 2019). This includes many low and middle-skilled roles with predictable tasks that are capable of standardisation. In addition, digital devices, platforms and content are ever changing and proliferating. People need to update their skills as much as they need to update their devices.

We must ensure that people from the most marginalised groups can be resilient in this digital economy. This means making sure they have the capability, confidence and curiosity to learn new digital skills, to apply them at work, and to keep on learning. Such ‘self-efficacy’ is central to developing the knowledge and skills needed to participate fully in the workforce.

This report looks at ways to support and improve economic participation for people who face significant disadvantage in the UK labour market, especially those who may be vulnerable to longterm unemployment. We also consider people who are working in low-skilled, low-paid and insecure work with limited opportunities for progression.

Progression is important in reducing current high levels of in-work poverty, preventing future unemployment and boosting wellbeing. The report develops an initial understanding of the needs relating to digital skills for employability, the range of current activity and initiatives, the areas of best practice and gaps where more work could add value. Alongside this areas for policy and practice development are identified (which are expanded in the separate summary report).

The research purpose being to identify how best to:

  • increase individuals’ confidence and their digital ‘self-efficacy’ (that is, their motivation, autonomy and confidence in learning – and continuing to learn – about digital skills)
  • develop the adaptive problem-solving skills that underpin the use of digital at work
  • help people into employment and to progress within employment through the confident application of digital skills

With a focus on:

  • people who are currently unemployed
  • low-skilled, low-paid workers with low educational attainment
  • workers in insecure employment, and in precarious industries or sectors at risk of automation/labour market change
  • groups at particular risk of digital exclusion in the workplace.