The government has been urged to take more action to address the digital skills gap in the UK or face being left behind.
The warning comes from a Science and Technology Committee report which found that 12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills, and 5.8 million people have never used the internet.
The report also found that only 35 per cent of computing teachers in schools have a relevant degree, and that 30 per cent of the required number of computer science teachers has not been recruited.
These figures may come as a surprise given that coding forms part of the school curriculum, which would be expected to attract more teachers with digital skills and the qualifications to teach computing-related subjects.
However, despite the need for digital skills the report found that 13 per cent of computing graduates remain unemployed six months after leaving university.
The situation costs the UK economy a hefty £63bn per year in lost gross domestic product, according to the report.
Committee chairwoman Nicola Blackwood MP praised the government’s efforts in plugging the nation’s digital skills gap thus far, but explained that more is needed, including action on visas that bring in more skills from outside the European Union.
"The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need,” she said.
“The government deserves credit for the action taken so far but it needs to go much further and faster. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships.”
The committee has called on the government to include the teaching of digital skills in all apprenticeships, not just those that focus on digital industries, and to prompt universities to provide ‘code conversion courses’ to help graduates move into the technology sector from unrelated subjects.
Further actions include simplifying apprenticeship schemes to allow small businesses to participate more easily, and working on the delivery of industry-led vocational career advice by universities.
The committee also questioned the time it has taken the government to publish its Digital Strategy.
“The government's long-delayed Digital Strategy must now be published without delay, and it must deliver. The government has introduced a range of measures to help, particularly by expanding the scale of the apprenticeship programme and introducing a new computer curriculum in schools, but it needs urgently to present a vision and a coherent strategy that brings these together,” said Blackwood.
The need for digital skills will become more important as growth in the technology industry will create new jobs requiring the right talent and skills.
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