The Time is Now to Democratise Access to Digital Skills & Embrace Online Learning

Entrepreneurial culture is radically transforming the UK. According to a recent Nectar Business survey, 80% of young people aged 16-30 believe they will start their own business within five years. Innovation is intrinsically entwined with our national experiences. Inventions such as the television, the World Wide Web, the cash machine and the light bulb pave the way for our future success stories.

Whilst the rise in the number of businesses being started across the UK is to be celebrated, these companies are struggling to find the right skills in order to grow and scale. A recent study found that Britain would need 745,000 additional workers with digital skills to continue growing the economy over the next four years. This data highlights a fundamental problem: the demand for digital skills is greater than the rate of supply. This nationally significant issue is reflected by our own research in Tech Nation. The private sector is calling out for business skills traditionally not taught by schools and universities. Combine this with the fact that digital is the fastest growing sector of the UK economy and one can gain an insight into the challenges we face to remain globally competitive.

What is the UK doing to solve this problem?

The government’s recent introduction of computing into the primary school curriculum is a reform of particular importance. It’s crucial that we equip the next generation with the necessary tools they need to build successful careers. There are also a number of private sector led coding and programming initiatives making positive steps towards bridging the gap.

Last November, Tech City UK launched Digital Business Academy, the world’s first government-funded online learning platform to provide the required skills for people who wish to start, grow or join a digital business. The eight online business courses are free and accessible to anyone in the UK. The courses are provided by a mix of best-in-class academic and industry experts such as University College London, Cambridge University Judge Business School and Founder Centric. This is a bold first step towards the democratisation of digital education and Britain is leading by example.

The recent development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in higher education has raised the prospect that new technology could fundamentally change how education is delivered. It provides unprecedented access to different demographics, opening up new pools of talent like never before. The flexibility of online learning serves as an enabler for the mum who wants to up-skill and rejoin the workforce, through to the established business owner who finds they need to gain digital skills in order to sustain the growth of their business.

Digital Business Academy lends itself to the fast paced lifestyles of today’s workforce. Laura Robinson, Founder of Worditude is using the courses to grow her copywriting business. She likes the fact that she can take the courses at her own pace and can refer her small business clients to use them.

We’re also using the Digital Business Academy here at Prowess – and we can definitely recommend it! It’s a great way to develop and keep up to date with the digital skills we all need to run a business these day. It’s also very well put together, easy to engage with and to follow at your own pace.

Research from Direct Line for Business found that eight million people in the UK are operating an ‘online business from home. The flexibility of propositions such as Digital Business Academy is changing the way people approach the attainment of new skills on a nationwide scale. We are very much encouraged that this trend will continue.

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