The future of Digital Skills

There is currently a great deal of debate over what digital skills are needed for future jobs.

A new report written by Erika Kispeter about the current and future demand for digital skills at work has just been published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – “What digital skills do workers need to succeed in the workforce in the next ten years”.

Although much of the relevant literature discusses ‘digital skills’, this term is used as a shorthand to mean, among others skills, knowledge, behaviours, attitudes, competencies, capabilities, and character traits. Current frameworks for digital skills include a handful of key areas of skills and competencies, namely Information and data literacy, Digital communication and collaboration, Digital content creation, Digital safety, Digital identity and Awareness of digital rights at different levels of proficiency. Digital skills also include non-technical, so called ‘21st century skills’, which can be grouped under a cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal domain.

While there is a trend to create comprehensive frameworks for digital skills, these attempts to give a general definition of ‘digital skills’ has been criticised. There is a call for more context-specific definitions.

The review has found that it is difficult to establish the boundary between essential and more specialised digital skills for the general workforce and identify a list of digital skills beyond the essential level. Descriptions of digital competence as a ‘T-shaped skill set’, in which individuals possess in depth knowledge in one area and good knowledge across many other areas may be useful here.

The future demand for general digital skills points at 21st century skills, especially interpersonal skills and cognitive competencies and learning strategies. It is argued that occupations where workers use digital skills creatively and to solve problems are likely to grow, while occupation where digital skills are used for routine tasks are likely to decline.

The drivers of change are suggested to be the effect of automation on future occupations, but there is much debate as to whether jobs will be fully automated or whether there will be a major change in task composition.

the report can be downloaded from the UK Government publications website.

Skills for Green Jobs


Addressing climate change and setting economies and societies more firmly onto a path towards a sustainable, low-carbon future is one of the defining challenges of our time. Such shift will entail far-reaching transformations of our economies, changing the ways we consume and produce, shifting energy sources, and leveraging new technologies.

The European Centre for Vocational Education and Training, Cedefop, has released a new report on Skills for Green Jobs. The report is based on country studies undertaken in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in six countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France and the UK) since 2010.

A key outcome, says CEDEFOP, is that countries vary in their approach to defining, classifying and collecting data on green jobs and skills. However, they have observed increased efforts are observed on data collection on developments in the ‘green economy’.

Since 2010, green employment trends have tended to parallel general economic trends. Carbon reduction targets and associated incentives and subsidies have been especially influential on green jobs and skills; other green policies, such as legislation to protect the environment, have also been important.

Although few countries have a strategy on skills for green jobs, “the updating of qualifications and VET programmes has soared, reflecting increased demand for green jobs and skills since 2010.” Updates mainly concern adding ‘green’ components to existing qualifications/programmes, since changes in skill demands are perceived more pertinent to including new green skills within existing occupations rather than the creation of new green ones.

 

More information is available in the CEDEFOP magazine promoting learning for work, Skillset and Match.

Making sense and meanings from Labour Market Data

The increasing power of processors and the advent of Open Data provides us information in many areas of society including about the Labour Market. Labour Market data has many uses, including for research in understandings society, for economic and social planning and for helping young people and older people in planning and managing their occupation and career.

Yet data on its own is not enough. We have to make sense and meanings from the data and that is often not simple. Gender pay gap figures released by the UK Office of National Statistics last week reveal widespread inequality across British businesses as every industry continues to pay men more on average than women. This video by Guardian newspaper journalist Leah Green looks at the figures and busts some of the common myths surrounding the gender pay gap.

Find out about jobs and automation from the ONS chatbot

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 1.5 million jobs in England are at high risk of some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future.

The ONS analysed the jobs of 20 million people in England in 2017, and has found that 7.4% are at high risk of automation.

Automation involves replacing tasks currently done by workers with technology, which could include computer programs, algorithms, or even robots.

Women, young people, and those who work part-time are most likely to work in roles that are at high risk of automation.

It is important to understand automation as it may have an impact on the labour market, economy and society and on the skills and qualifications young people will need in the future.

The ONS have developed a chatbot for people to find out more about automation. You can try it out below and you can download the data here.

UK Skills taxonomy

NESTA have launched an interesting new Tool – a UK skills taxonomy:

“Skill shortages are costly and can hamper growth, but we don’t currently measure these shortages in a detailed or timely way. To address this challenge, we have developed the first data-driven skills taxonomy for the UK that is publicly available. A skills taxonomy provides a consistent way of measuring the demand and supply of skills. It can also help workers and students learn more about the skills that they need, and the value of those skills.” NESTA

It should help with careers guidance and is ideal for people looking at the return to differing career choices and how you get there. NESTA began with a list of just over 10,500 unique skills that had been mentioned within the descriptions of 41 million UK job adverts, collected between 2012 and 2017 and provided by Burning Glass Technologies. Machine learning was used to hierarchically cluster the skills. The more frequently two skills appeared in the same advert, the more likely it is that they ended up in the same branch of the taxonomy. The taxonomy therefore captures ‘the clusters of skills that we need for our jobs’.

The final taxonomy can be seen here and has a tree-like structure with three layers. The first layer contains 6 broad clusters of skills; these split into 35 groups, and then split once more to give 143 clusters of specific skills. Each of the approximately 10,500 skills lives within one of these 143 skill groups.

The skills taxonomy was enriched to provide estimates of the demand for each skill cluster (based on the number of mentions within adverts), the change in demand over recent years and the value of each skill cluster (based on advertised salaries). The estimates of demand get us halfway to measuring skill shortages. Most importantly, a user can search on the taxonomy by job title, and discover the skills needed for a wide range of jobs.

The ten clusters (at the third layer) containing the most demanded skills are:

  1. Social work and caregiving
  2. General sales
  3. Software development
  4. Office administration
  5. Driving and automotive maintenance
  6. Business management
  7. Accounting and financial management
  8. Business analysis and IT projects
  9. Accounting administration
  10. Retail