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It is widely accepted and evidenced that the UK economy is facing a digital skills shortage which is holding businesses back in the present, and will have disastrous consequences in the future if not addressed now. Currently in London alone there are an estimated 30,000 unfilled vacancies as a direct result of people not having the right skills, and a projected £11 billion could be added to UK GDP by as soon as 2022 if improved skills are matched to suitable jobs.

Recommendations made by researchers, UK Government and cross sector experts all say that business needs to play a key role; and we have heard businesses say this is a key area of concern that they want to do something about.

As The Lord Mayor explained in his January 2019 Gresham lecture – there’s a lot of good work happening, however it is fragmented and not part of a cohesive response to the crises. He likened it to a trying to do a jigsaw puzzle when you don’t have the picture you’re trying to complete – possible but a lot harder and a lot slower.

We brought together organisations from across the City to find out how the digital skills gap is manifesting in organisations today, and to collaborate on coming up with solutions. We were joined by representatives from a variety of City based sectors, to see if there was any commonality and space for collaboration. Representatives from BT, CBRE, Gulf International Bank, M&G Prudential, PwC, Rabobank, Searchparty digital and Standard Life Aberdeen attended the three focus groups.

There was agreement across the board that this is a big priority for all businesses, and reassuringly they were doing a lot to deal with it - from including digital in organisational change plans, to creating in time learning apps where people can keep their digital skills in a healthy state. The problems that were causing the most issue weren’t simple, and down to culture – from hierarchical structures that stagnate innovation and creativity, to budget cuts in increasingly demanding learning and development strategies. There were suggestions for what could help and motivation for everyone to work together on doing something now – so we have definite traction for progress.

We’ll be pulling all of these conversations together into a paper, and sharing some of the ideas for solutions to hopefully contribute to that jigsaw puzzle picture The Lord Mayor is trying to create. If you would like to see a copy of these findings please contact daisy.charlton@thelordmayorsappeal.org .