Why business education instructors must be aware of the digital skills gap

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Right at this moment, countries such as the UK are in a crisis. Remarkably, 72% of large companies and 49% of SMEs are experiencing digital skill gaps in their workforce. The immediate issues that this creates for economic and business growth is only compounded when you consider that it is reported that there is also a lack of digitally savvy graduates coming through universities to fill posts. 

The digital skills gap is not just about being able to use complicated software in technical jobs, it’s wider than that, it relates to business, marketing, and leadership skills in a highly tech-focused digital world. The demand for tech has massively outweighed the supply in the UK for too long now, creating a digital skills crisis that has created a domino effect that heaps pressure and accountability on to educators.

In this article, we will look at why business education teachers must be aware of the digital skills gap and what they can do to stop it worsening.

The digital skills gap is global

It’s not only the UK that is suffering; this a worldwide crisis that is affecting globalisation, economies, and international development. All around the world, people are not only experiencing a lack of skills and a lack of opportunity to learn the right skills, but they are unaware of what opportunities and career roles even exist. To make things worse, there are women who feel they cannot enter the digital industry because of certain stereotypes, meaning that they are globally under-represented in all parts of digital development.

How can business instructors help to narrow the digital skills gap?

Business teachers are in a difficult position when it comes to teaching future-proof digital skills. Here are some pieces of advice that our research has taught us:

  • Be conscious when planning courses that the skills and programmes are not at high risk of quickly becoming outdated. The skills must be versatile
  • Try to match the speed of industry and technological change with the rate of demand for different skills
  • Lecturers and teachers must educate themselves faster than they educate the students so that they stay ahead. This is incredibly challenging but can be done through collaboration
  • Drill into the students that they must self-study to keep up to date with digital skills and that it’s vital they find their own specialisms and niches within which they can develop advanced skills. Hackathons and working with personal interests are just a couple of ways to do it
  • Remind students that they must be savvy and get themselves ahead and that traditional teaching from textbooks and lectures can only get them so far
  • Introduce innovative teaching methods, such as simulated business environments and roleplaying exercises so that the students have a safe space to practice the skills they’ve acquired

What digital skills are most sought after?

Right at this moment, the following skills are those which are most in demand from a digital and technological perspective:

  • The ability to think critically in high-pressure situations
  • Analysing big data and drawing useful and progressive conclusions
  • Comprehending digital disruption and multimedia channels
  • A willingness to innovate, think creatively, and feel confident about entrepreneurship
  • Skills relating to artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality, all of which are industries growing faster than the supply market can handle
  • STEM-oriented industries, which means Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths

Should business education instructors target the digital skills gap, and if yes, how?

Technology is a revolution that has made many aspects of our lives considerably easier, quicker, and more effective. We can thank technology for the high levels of convenience that we now experience on a day-to-day basis, as well as the abundance of global information that can be quickly found through search engines. 

At the same time, technology has damaged some of our ‘soft skills’, as they are known. Employers are concerned that graduates suffer from basic decision-making skills, they have a hard time collaborating and working in teams, that they are too focused on the product or service and not on the customer. There are also fears that graduates cannot handle and manage change well, that their lack of adaptability and flexibility hinders them from being a valued member of a dynamic workforce. All of these skills can be taught and learned, and it’s down to business education teachers to combine these soft skills with sought-after digital skills.

The skills mentioned above are not the only skills that are suffering. Language skills, leadership skills, relationship skills, and verbal communication are all under threat from the way in which we have come to rely on technology. If business education teachers want to inspire and create a workforce for the future, to help nurture future CEOs, MDs, Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, they have to create well-rounded graduates.

How can business education instructors get started on delivering change?

The following ideas are believed to be ‘future-proof’ meaning that no matter how technology and business industries change, the skills learned through these methods will continue to be relevant and applicable.

  • Blended learning, a mixture of physical, distance, and mobile learning all combining to the student’s benefit
  • Customised studies for each student that will help them develop specialist digital skills that are highly sought after
  • More opportunities to learn by doing, through internships, field-based projects, simulated environments and work placements.
  • Encouraging students to attend hackathons and incubators
  • Gamifying studies to motivate students to participate more
  • Making courses available to an international audience to help develop globalised skills

In conclusion

In this article’s title, we didn’t post a question, but rather, an important statement. Why business education teacher MUST be aware of the digital skills gap. Having made our point, we want to add, for the benefit of any business education teachers reading, that you are accountable for the digital skills gap, that it is through your tuition and impact, that the future business professionals enter their industries either ready or not. Will the next generation have the skills required? We hope so.

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