If you saw a £5 note on the pavement you’d probably pick it up. It would seem a waste not to. However, according to a report recently produced by O2, digital skills worth £6.7 billion are being wasted. What’s more – they are here, available now and we’re already paying for them. They’re in the hands of Britain’s unemployed youth (actually about 37% of them). You’d have to walk past that £5 note 1.34 billion times to equal the amount of money UK industry doesn’t, it seems, plan to pick up.
It’s a terrible waste and it also begs an awful lot of questions.
Is youth unemployment so low that we don’t need to worry about it?
No. Unemployment in the 16 to 24 age group stands at approximately 1.02 million.
Does British industry need digital skills?
Look at the number of seminars showing business how to use social media. Look at the success of Apple. The internet is worth over £100 billion a year to the UK and is 7.2% of our GDP.
Are UK businesses geared up to make use of these resources?
According to the report “77 per cent of businesses acknowledge that young people have digital skills in abundance but less than one quarter (24 per cent) are planning to offer a first time job or an ‘on the job’ training role to a young person in the coming months.”
What are the answers?
On the face of it there is a match. A large pool of potentially low-cost skilled “workers” on the one hand, and a need for those workers’ skills on the other. However, it seems there is no great clamour from employers.
Any solution would need to
- Identify the talent pool and recognise/classify their skills
- Provide a mechanism to make them available to employers/business e.g. co-operatives
- Educate employers on the benefits of using digital resources to improve their businesses
- Encourage “digital companies” like Virgin Media, Sky and BT to provide a platform for digital entrepreneurs to exploit these unused skills.
There is no single answer but walking past £5 and not picking up is a waste. Walking past £6.7 billion is a scandal.