A report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is warning of a crisis in 'digital skills' in the UK, and urges the government to move swiftly to address the problem.
The research found that no less than 12.6 million adults in the UK lacked what are described as basic digital skills – and almost half that amount, 5.8 million people, have never been on the internet.
Part of the problem can be traced back to education, with the report noting that the majority of computer teachers – 65% of them – don't have a degree relevant to the subject, and that the government has fallen 30% short of its target for hiring computer science teachers.
There are also issues when it comes to the hardware students are using, with the report observing that 22% of the IT equipment in schools is ineffective.
The report also found that roughly one in eight (13%) computer science graduates are still unemployed six months after they've left university.
All of this adds up to a digital skills gap which the committee estimates is costing the UK no less than £63 billion every year in terms of GDP.
Digital skills aren't just about jobs in the tech industry, of course, as most jobs necessitate the use of a computer in some way – indeed it's estimated that 90% now require some digital skills.
The committee described the digital skills gap as a long-running weakness which the government must address, and noted that digital skills should be one of the core components of any apprenticeship scheme, not just of 'digital apprenticeships'.
The chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Nicola Blackwood, said: "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.
"The Government deserves credit for 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 said the Government's long-awaited and delayed 'Digital Strategy' must be published without any further delay, and must deliver in tackling "stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems with digital education and training [which] need to be addressed as a matter of urgency".
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