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Our terrible digital skills could be knocking £63bn a year off the UK's GDP

Hayley Kirton
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The committee is calling for a reassessment of the Tier 2 Visa rules in light of its findings (Source: Getty)

Lack of digital know-how is setting the UK economy back billions of pounds a year, a report published today has found.

According to the research by the Science and Technology committee, 12.6m adults in the UK lack basic digital skills, while 13 per cent of those leaving university with a computing degree are still unemployed six months after graduating.

This persistent inability to plug skills gaps is costing the UK economy £63bn in lost GDP every year, the report warned.

"The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind," said Science and Technology committee chair Nicola Blackwood.

"We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need."

Read more: Why MPs need government to fix the skills gap ASAP

In light of its findings, the committee is calling on industry to provide vocationally-focused digital careers advice in universities, and on government for a review of the qualifying requirements for shortage of IT jobs under the Tier 2 visa rules.

Blackwood added: "Government deserves credit for action taken so far but it needs to go much further and faster. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships."

However, commenting on the report, Rudi de Sousa, technology chief at software engineering and consultancy company YLD, remarked the problem with digital skills was not a lack of talent, but rather "the disconnect between the way organisations are set up to attract and retain skilled talent, and what these new recruits actually want from an employer".

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De Sousa continued: "This lack of understanding about how to make the business appealing to new talent means that many would-be software engineers, programmers and developers are being lured into other markets that better-accommodate their requirements. And this is the real problem that needs to be addressed if the UK wants to maintain its position as the tech leader in Europe."

Meanwhile, Jonathan Tate, UK & EMEA technology consulting leader at PwC, told City A.M.:

Relying on government intervention or the education system alone won't solve the short term problem. UK industry also needs to play a role, given the impact of the digital skills shortage being felt by organisations across the country. With competition only increasing, developing the right strategies to stay afloat is essential. Industry should be working to attract top talent, while also looking to re-skill their existing workforce.

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