• Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

Technology Digital

I Wish I Was A Technology Digital

Will AI widen the digital skills divide?

Digital skills are regarded as an essential in today’s working world, yet more than 54% of UK office workers do not feel their formal education adequately prepared them for working life.

This is according to new research of over 5,500 office workers across EMEA from ServiceNow, a digital workflow company.

With artificial intelligence growing in prominence, the majority of UK workers agree that AI (73%) and coding (73%) should be mandatory in formal education, arming the young people of today with the knowledge needed in the future workplace.

In fact, digital skills as a whole are regarded as a vital skill (96%) and seen as more important to learn than sport (94%), languages (91%), and creative writing (87%).

“Tech innovation is moving at an incredibly fast pace and as the business need increases, many of today’s workers are struggling to keep up,” comments Cathy Mauzaize, President, EMEA at ServiceNow.

“We cannot ignore this pace and need to address new solutions for education to help workers embrace the new digital mindset and prepare for the future of work.”  

Amidst the ever-changing job market and concern around the tech skills gap, the demand for upskilling is evident among workers, with some even welcoming new career paths.

More than three quarters (78%) of those surveyed, for instance, think that digital skills will give people an edge in business, and nearly two-thirds (65%) feel additional education in this area would help them feel more confident about their career prospects, rising to three-quarters (76%) of those aged 18-34.

Many are calling for more direct action, with almost three-quarters (72%) feel there should be a standardised qualification for digital skills that employers can recognise to ensure they are recruiting the right talent.

This is reflected in the current workforce now – tech roles have some of the highest starting salaries in the UK, and often offer hybrid and flexible working opportunities. With AI threatening to replace more and more jobs, almost a quarter (23%) of UK office workers wish they had taken a different career path, and some (15%) are considering retraining in a different field.

Will the Digital Skills Divide Widen?

More than two in five (44%) UK respondents feel that AI is the biggest opportunity for the future of the workforce, with almost half (49%) seeing its potential to boost productivity.

Yet despite this promise, many (41%) admit to currently lacking the technical abilities needed to work alongside and use AI systems.

In terms of the capabilities of generative AI, almost half (47%) still do not understand how this technology can support their role today.

It is, however, recognised as a significant opportunity at every level of work, with the majority of office workers planning on using generative AI for tasks including: emails and social media (69%), scheduling and diary management (69%), creating Excel formulas (68%), transcribing (66%), and reviewing documents like reports and CVs (65%).

Despite the opportunities digital skills and AI bring, workers can find it time-consuming and overwhelming to undergo personal improvement, with nearly half (46%) admitting it’s been hard to fit digital skills development around their work schedule.

A lot of this comes from not knowing where to start (38%), or from feeling intimidated (37%) by new technologies.

This leads to nearly half (47%) of those surveyed feeling anxious that the pace of technological change means any new digital skills they learn will quickly become outdated.

“Unless we act now to both upskill current workers and train young people in using AI, the digital skills divide will continue to exponentially grow,” adds Mauzaize.

“Employees and employers alike know that AI offers so much potential to boost productivity and enhance working experiences and upskilling doesn’t have to be hard or inaccessible.

“ServiceNow’s RiseUp programme is just one example of available skills training for people of all backgrounds to find opportunities in this fast-growing tech industry.”

Will Tech Talent Leave Tech?

Those working in the IT and computing sector are most likely to feel confident they have the skills to be successful throughout their career (81% vs. average of 65%).

In addition, nearly three-quarters (71%) say their employer has given them adequate technology training, compared to less than two-thirds (58%) elsewhere.

In contrast, many are considering new industries or roles – a shift that could be a boost for other industries, but runs the risk of a talent drain in the tech sector.

Despite already being in tech roles, one in three (35%) of those working in IT and computing are currently retraining in a different field, and more than a quarter (28%) wish they had taken a different career path.

While this change of heart may be due to a number of factors, more than half (57%) admitted to feeling intimidated by new technologies – compared to a third (36%) across other industries, and many (53%) state they currently lack the technical capabilities to work alongside or use AI systems.


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