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Open Data Institute report on data literacy

by uma

By: Kevin Hanegan, Chief Learning Officer, Qlik

The Open Data Institute’s (ODI) report on data literacy reminds everyone in business and government to have a basic understanding of how to work with data.  Data literacy has never been more critical today, as the role of data in the enterprise continues to evolve at speed. Research from Qlik revealed that 88% of c-level executives believe employees without data literacy – the skill predicted by employees and business leaders alike to be the most in-demand skill by 2030 – will be left behind in the future workplace.

But where do digital skills sit in today’s economy, and how are employees going to get the skills they need for the future? Let’s take a look at some of the challenges and the areas where employees and organisations are going to need the most support.

The importance of data and the challenge of addressing today’s digital skills gap

First of all, it’s important to assert that real-time data is one of the most valuable resources for modern businesses today, empowering organisations to make the right decisions at the right moment. In fact, a study from Qlik found that nearly all global business leaders (90%) say that data enabled them to better navigate the uncertain business environment created by the pandemic and that it was critical to the success of their organisation in this period (80%).

But a recent survey published this year found almost a fifth of companies in the UK have a digital skills gap, with more than 14% of businesses struggling to find the right digital talent. It is digital skills, including data literacy, coding, and information processing, for example, that are currently more in demand than ever. Another report shows nearly 82% of all jobs in the UK list digital skills as a requirement – showing the gap between supply and demand when it comes to digital is only widening.

The reality of self-funding to future-proof yourself

When it comes to looking at the impacts of this skills gap in reality, however, what’s most concerning is that employees are currently having to worry about self-funding their own skills training to keep up with this demand. It is the most commonly held belief among British business leaders that it is an individual’s responsibility to prepare themselves with the skills for the future workplace over their current employer or educational institutions. On average, this costs employees over £2,500 of their own money per year.

This lack of skills investment will have a very real impact on workplace inequity and put pressure on employees to invest significant sums of money in their personal development to keep up with technological requirements that are becoming essential in the workplace, such as data literacy. While some individuals may be in a position to invest financially in their skills, this additional investment should hardly be something that is expected of employees, and amid a cost-of-living crisis in the UK, it is increasingly unviable. Longer-term, this could well mean that more and more jobs become closed to people from less well-off financial positions, with disastrous impacts for businesses and society, which will suffer from a severe lack of diversity as a result.

This is not acceptable, and we must do more to close this very real data skills gap. While the Open Data Institute (ODI) report goes some way to addressing current challenges, more emphasis must be placed on upskilling employees to prepare them for the future workplace.

Next steps – what can be done to address this situation?

Earlier this year, the UK Government unveiled its Levelling Up strategy to improve UK services, including education, broadband and transport, as well as boost skills opportunities nationally. There is a great opportunity for the government to address digital and data skills here. A core part of recent investment does include the government’s £3.8 billion investment into skills boot camps – and while this is certainly a step in the right direction, this momentum must continue to ensure UK adults can apply for today’s most in-demand jobs.

It’s time for the government to take action to ensure businesses can prepare their staff without putting the financial burden on them – for the benefit of innovation, business and society as a whole.


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