Who needs digital skills now?

Senior Research and Evaluation Manager, Jane Mackey, writes about the absolute necessity of digital skills for all following Covid-19.

The outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of social distancing measures means that we are now spending a huge amount of our time online. Digital technology has become crucial to communicating with friends and family, for doing our shopping, for helping our children to learn, for finding entertainment, for accessing government services, and – for many of us – for doing our jobs.

Although some of us are able to adapt to this new way of living and working, it poses a serious challenge for the 11.9 million people in the UK who lack Essential Digital Skills for Life and the even greater number of people – 17.3 million – who do not have the Essential Digital Skills for Work.

The Department for Education (DfE) recently launched The Skills Toolkit, providing free online courses, tools and resources to help people improve their digital and numeracy skills. Good Things Foundation is proud to be offering introductory digital skills courses as part of The Skills Toolkit through our online learning platforms Learn My Way and Make it Click.

Since the launch of The Skills Toolkit, our digital skills courses have attracted a large amount of traffic, demonstrating the significant demand for support of this kind. In the first 24 hours following the launch of The Skills Toolkit, Learn My Way attracted almost 11,000 sessions and Make it Click 6,000 sessions. Across the whole Learn My Way website, there were 280,000 page views, while across Make It Click it was 16,000.

Looking at the Learn My Way visitor statistics over April, it is clear we should never take workplace digital skills for granted. The majority of people newly registered to Learn My Way are employed, of which two thirds are not looking for work, and three quarters say they can already perform tasks online such as social networking and making online purchases. Three of our Learn My Way courses, Introduction to Office programs, Creating Spreadsheets, and Creating Documents, have seen increased popularity since the launch of the Skills Toolkit.

Despite this, the most popular courses remain ‘the basics’, covering skills such as: ‘using a keyboard’, ‘using a mouse’ and ‘using a touch-screen’. This is likely to be driven, in part, by the fact these are the first modules in the course. However, it is nonetheless interesting that learners chose to start with these modules, and did not skip ahead to more advanced topics. Understanding how we should be supporting people to thrive in the future of work is a critical area, and one we’ve been exploring in our work with Accenture on Future Proof.

Eighty two per cent of job vacancies require digital skills, and, with many of us now working at home, digital interactions have become even more central to our working lives (along with the video call fatigue that this can bring with it!)

The learning patterns we are witnessing suggest that parts of the workforce may be finding this shift online to be challenging, and are likely to need further support to work in our increasingly digital economy.

It does seem likely that many people will be working at home for the foreseeable future. Businesses may also be looking for ways to adapt their offering to the online environment, requiring their employees to learn and adopt new digital technologies. Research by Enterprise Nation has revealed 63% of small businesses are looking at ways to increase online capability, while 60% said they were planning to diversify their business so they could easily ‘pivot’ and refocus their activities.

Looking ahead, the acceleration of digitalisation in the workplace runs the risk of increasing the workplace digital skills gap – and threatens to leave some people behind.

At Good Things Foundation we are committed to ensuring that everyone can benefit from digital progress and will continue to support people to develop the digital skills they need to thrive in society.

We will continue to update the courses we are offering through Learn My Way and Make it Click, adapting these according to learner feedback and responding to the new digital challenges raised by Covid-19.

To take a look at the courses we currently have on offer please visit Learn My Way and Make it Click.