According to one report, digital transformation in the UK has accelerated by five years due to Covid-19


According to research by McKinsey, the combined productivity gap caused by low digitisation could mean a loss of £100bn ($128bn) to GDP in Great Britain (Credit: Pixabay)

Anthony Tattersall, head of EMEA at online learning platform Coursera, discusses how digital technology is being used by organisations in the UK to fuel the country’s economic recovery. 


With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing companies to transition to a digital-first environment, employees and businesses are having to adapt to new realities.

The new world of work is in a state of flux.

Realising this, many organisations are stepping up their digital transformation efforts.

A recent report suggests that in the UK digital transformation has accelerated by five years due to Covid-19.

But our 2020 Global Skills Index report (GSI), which draws on performance data from 65 million learners across 60 countries and provides a critical lens into the future of industry and learning, indicates the UK is struggling to keep up with the rest of the world.

The country ranks 23rd for technology skills and 24th for data science skills globally.

Meanwhile, Europe as a whole is a skills powerhouse compared to the rest of the world.

Countries like Russia (topping the rankings at number one for both technology and computer science skills), Belarus (ranked 2nd globally for technology skills and 3rd for data science skills) and Switzerland (3rd globally for technology skills and 2nd for data science skills), appear well-equipped to ignite this post-pandemic innovation boom, according to GSI.

But in the UK, nowhere is this shortage more apparent than in the consumer goods industry – one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

As life moved online, workers were left to wonder when they would return to work, or if their jobs would still be there at all.

Employers needed to quickly develop the tools and means necessary for operating entirely online.

And with the lagging 23% of skills proficiency in technology, the industry has struggled to adapt.

In other industries, the situation is much the same. And perhaps most worrying of all is the fact that even before the pandemic, the UK was already seriously struggling to hire talent with relevant technology and data science skills.

According to research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, nearly half of all employers reported concern over the talent pool drying up in the years ahead. The pandemic will only heighten these challenges.

In an attempt to help, we’ve seen ventures such as Digital Boost offer UK organisations and charities affected by the pandemic access to digital skills for their employees through Coursera.

The problem is real. According to McKinsey research, the combined productivity gap caused by low digitisation could mean a loss of £100bn ($128bn) to GDP in Great Britain.

In the meantime, pressure is growing on Rishi Sunak to extend the UK furlough scheme to avert a wave of job losses for roles that no longer have a future.


How some organisations are using technology to fuel the economic recovery in the UK

As these challenges grow, one thing is becoming increasingly apparent – to prepare for the digital future, job-relevant training is necessary.

Businesses and governments around the world will have an important role to play in its provision alongside traditional education institutions.

And with Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson’s recent announcement that the UK Government will be reversing its commitment to get 50% of England’s young people into university, there’s never been a better time to rethink the ways we invest in learning and development in this country.

Traditional on-campus teaching will need to be complemented with high-quality, online courses that are more widely accessible and flexible to everyone, encouraging life-long learning.

Investing in flexible learning pathways and empowering people with the tools they need to adapt will be crucial to ensure everyone has equal opportunities.

economic recovery UK
Google has also recently launched three new six-month career certificate programmes that teach candidates how to perform in in-demand jobs (Credit: Pixabay)

The good news is we’ve seen some fantastic initiatives stand out this year.

For example, the University of London’s (UoL) online Computer Science Bsc is helping learners upskill and reskill in different and more accessible ways.

Since launching last year, four in ten learners reported starting but not completing an undergraduate degree before entering UoL’s Computer Science Bsc, and almost two in ten reported being high school leavers.

There are several pathways to access this BSc, including the Google IT Certificate, which require no prior experience in technology to complete.

Google has also recently launched three new six-month career certificate programmes that teach candidates how to perform in in-demand jobs at a fraction of the cost of college degrees and with no prior experience required to enter.

The three new programmes are in high-demand roles such as Project Management, Data Analysis and UX Design.

There are inevitably going to be many individuals forced to reassess their skillsets; upgrade, or even completely relaunch their careers in the coming months and years.

We must rethink the country’s educational infrastructure and modernise it to address inequities and tackle the digital skills deficit.

By utilising our GSI report, we hope to inspire institutions across the country to coordinate skills development for a more inclusive and advanced workforce.

Together we can re-envision training and jobs as a vehicle for growth and prosperity