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Helping learners gain essential digital skills through the power of practice


A lack of essential digital skills is a widespread challenge for many individuals, companies and for governments around the world. We are fully aware that this is a global issue not just a UK problem, considering the pace of change and the focus on digital transformation and artificial intelligence.

The challenge to keep up-to-date is considerable. With the likes of COVID over the last 18 months, the pandemic has potentially made the problem a lot worse. One in five adults have no or low basic digital skills. 17 million adults in the UK do not have the digital skills needed for work say Lloyd’s. That's 25% of the population and 40% of the working population. A third of the vacancies are difficult to fill to some degree, attributable to a lack of appropriate digital skills. BCS say that an estimated 9 million are unable to use the internet and their device by themselves. An estimated 2.7 million can access the internet but lack the ability to use it to it's full advantage. These are all staggering facts that are hard to ignore and we can't deny we are facing a big skills gap.

17 million adults in the UK do not have the digital skills needed for work

We know that the skills gap is growing and will continue to grow unless we take action. Unlocking potential is a must have. Reskilling into new roles and learning new skills is the only way we can keep pace with the market. The challenges continue as we see investment in automation, including artificial intelligence, robotics and cyber security. They continue to accelerate at pace putting one in five jobs at risk through automation by 2030. Today's skills are becoming redundant, so agility, flexibility, learning and development must be a priority today in preparation for tomorrow.

Man using laptop for video call

So how do we help this untapped pool of talent needing essential digital skills? 

Thankfully, as of September 2020, the UK government provided Essential Digital Skills qualifications free of charge to those 19 plus with low or no digital skills. This is funded by the Adult Education Budget (AEB) for Entry Level Three and Level One. There is actually an easy assessment to help advisors access the right level.

So let's take a look at the structure of Essential Digital Skills. At the top level there's four key segments; communication, handling information, and content transactional and problem solving. But let's start with the foundational skills which are really the key pieces of the jigsaw before entering the digital skills journey. The foundation are the basics which will be required to underpin the step into Essential Digital. This is where the journey starts for more people than we think.

Funding in the UK through the Adult Education Budget.

A key point here is that learners who lack basic and foundational skills are also often challenged in other fundamental areas, for example, communication, confidence, literacy and numeracy. This means that their Digital Skills need or should form part of an holistic programme of learning to really help them get onto the ladder so we  can help our customers and communities improve the odds of getting a job.

In education we know that obtaining digital skills will help gain and sustain employment but also give individuals confidence in their everyday lives. Digital skills must be a fundable and a fundamental part of the toolkit not just today but going forward, providing ongoing support, maintaining the pace with the changes in technology and the skills. Our role is to provide and assist throughout the learning journey to provide the support and the toolkit to enable customers to take control.

Practice Labs can help teach this. In terms of teaching we know that resource is tight with tutors and assessors. We also know there's an extra challenge of many not having the digital skill set to support the topic, so at Practice Labs we're launching a learning resource that includes the following initial assessment to determine the level the learner is working at and what their key learning needs are.

That's the key to prove ability; EDS will allow students and learners to build their knowledge and most importantly practice and practice without worrying about breaking anything or making any mistakes.

A step-by-step, easy-to-use learning resource that develops the learner through video content led by digital professionals which builds knowledge and skill and then embeds assessment into the journey to prove ability. That's the key to prove ability; EDS will allow students and learners to build their knowledge and most importantly practice and practice without worrying about breaking anything or making any mistakes. This resource will show the learner where their gaps are and then they can go back, re-watch, and retry and take the assessment again, and most importantly understand where they've improved and where their gaps are still, if there are any. What we know is this will build confidence for the learner, it will build knowledge, it builds skill and ability, and most importantly readies them to complete their end assessment and gain their qualification.

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