/hr/file/digitalskillsunemployedresizedjpgDigital skills for the unemployed
The adult education sector has a crucial role to play in seeking to reduce the gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to develop digital skills - and those who do not. As the results of the 2014 digital agenda scoreboard have indicated, the digital skills of “disadvantaged”* people are generally significantly lower than those of the average population. As the table below demonstrates, in the EU-28, 38% of disadvantaged people have 'no' digital skills.
/hr/file/graphpng-0Digital skills of disadvantaged people
Source: Digital Skills Scoreboard 2014
Further, an analysis of OECD PIAAC data shows a clear correlation between low literacy and numeracy skills and poor abilities to use digital tools in a purposeful manner. The results also indicate that 25% of adults lack the skills to make effective use of ICTs for problem solving purposes:
These types of results have implications for active labour market policies - and in particular for those adult educators who design and implement such policies. Digital skills are often a gateway to employment, with those who cannot demonstrate basic ICT skills often not even considered for recruitment by employers.
This is put into further context by the increasing digitalisation of the workplace, which has not only changed the nature of existing occupations, but also created new ones. Employees who are able to access, search and organise information efficiently through different channels, who have the necessary skills to learn to use new digital applications are of more value than employees without any digital skills. As a recent OECD report points out, workers increasingly need both generic and specialised ICT skills to carry out work tasks, since ICTs are embedded in work processes and occupations. Even those sectors traditionally requiring a ‘low’ level of skills – such as construction or agriculture - require the use of digital technologies.
Many recognise this key challenge. At EU-level, initiatives such as the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs and the e-Skills for jobs campaign have brought significant momentum in supporting the development of e-skills needed for the 21st century workplace. But there are other ways to increase the level of skills across Europe, and two in particular:
- Information is key. Therefore, providers should seek to provide as much information as possible to their students on career options and training pathways before enrolment. Likewise, I think education provider should systematically collate and disseminate data on students who have completed training programmes with them – across a range of indicators such as job placement rates and career trajectories. This would help providers to carefully tailor what they teach and think about how they can better connect their students to the labour market.
- Providers must seek to develop close relationships with employers. High levels of collaboration between education providers and employers are a common feature of the most successful learning programmes. If employers can able to inform course design this may, in turn, better equip students for the skills of the modern workplace – particularly in the specific types of digital skills they require. For example, a wide-ranging report by McKinsey indicates that whilst 70% of educators say young people are prepared for work, less than 50% of young people and employers agree. This means less than half of the actual students who participated in the survey believe their education has given them skills that improve their chances of finding and securing employment. Creating a dialogue with employers in your sector and region may avoid such pitfalls.
For individual adult education providers, developing and implementing effective training programmes – particularly for those who are unemployed and/or low skilled – is challenging in a fast-moving marketplace. But by making a two-pronged attack on this issue, I believe we can really make some headway.
* Here disadvantaged was classified as defined as people belonging to at least one of the following three groups: aged 55-74, low education and/or unemployed.
** These results are based on a survey of youth, education providers, and employers in nine countries that are diverse in geography and socioeconomic context: Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States
Aaron Rajania is a senior research consultant in Ecorys UK, with a specific focus on education and employment policy and research work. Specific research areas include teacher training systems, learning pathways, quality assurance frameworks, and skills development in a work setting. He has lived and worked in a number of countries in Europe including Belgium, Germany, Hungary and the UK.