The gap between businesses’ demand for digital skills and supply among the workforce is widening drastically. According to a global McKinsey survey nearly 90% of executives say they have a shortage of skills needed in their workforce already or expect this to be the case in the next few years. This divide has only deepened over the past year as the shift to digital across all aspects of business and society has accelerated at hyper speed.
Unless significant action is taken soon, this digital skills gap will become endemic. But governments, nonprofits and educational institutions should not be left to solve the problem alone. Businesses have a pivotal role to play in addressing the skills gap through a rethinking of education and training initiatives. This role will not only promote economic recovery in the short term but also enable sustainable growth and a more equitable future.
Education models must complement realities of innovation
The main driver of the digital skills gap is a growing disparity between the pace of innovation and static educational models. Companies looking to compete in this changing landscape are clamouring for workers with technical skills in areas like coding, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report found that the top skills for 2025 will not only include technology design and programming, but also “softer skills” such as social influence, leadership, creativity, resilience and active learning.
Traditional educational systems are simply not preparing workers to keep up with technological advances and broader skills needed to fill roles. The cost of higher education, for instance, has locked out many from seeking qualifications in technology. With few exceptions, the prevailing model still assumes that learning stops at graduation, even as innovation occurs faster than ever. By constantly upskilling their workforce, businesses can help cultivate a culture of continuous learning across our society.
Business can add to economic growth, and promote equity and inclusion
A revolution in education is needed to make learning more widely available, accessible and affordable. Rather than sitting in a traditional classroom, we need to move to just-in-time training that’s integrated into our working experience and relevant to wherever we are on our career journey.
Until now, business leaders have mostly left it to governments and educational institutions to reform education. Yet businesses know what skills they need and are experts at innovation; many have funds to invest and stand to benefit directly. We also know that women, lower-income workers, rural residents and those from underrepresented backgrounds are at highest risk of falling behind on digital skills. Those who aren’t able to access the knowledge they need to thrive in the digital revolution will be left behind economically.
Enterprises today have a unique opportunity to add value to their business, contribute to economic growth and promote equity and inclusion. By reinventing themselves as innovative education providers, they can play an active role in addressing the deepening digital skills challenge. The commitment they make now to solving the digital skills gap will determine their ability to leverage untapped talent in the workforce and ensure no one gets left behind.
- Robin Fisher, Senior Area Vice President,Salesforce Emerging Markets