The skills "revolution" for England, announced in the Queen's Speech, is a significant step in the right direction to address the digital skills gap, says the professional body for the IT industries.

The government set out its priorities at the State Opening of Parliament, including the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, a central part of the governments blueprint for a post-16 education system to ensure everyone, no matter where they live or what their background, can gain the work skills they need any stage of their lives.

Annette Allmark, Head of Apprenticeships at BCS, said: ‘These plans will provide more people with access to the training in digital skills they need to progress in fulfilling careers - and develop the skills the economy needs to flourish and ‘build back better’ after the pandemic.

‘Hopefully, this funding will also increase the diversity of people learning digital skills now and in the future. It’s important that the government continues to build on the many excellent training opportunities already available, such as the wide range of the popular digital apprenticeships.’

The government says its new legislative programme will be ‘focussed on supporting the nation’s recovery, backing the NHS, levelling up and spreading opportunity.’

The Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan, will be joining BCS on a panel to discuss the government’s plans for digital skills on 2 June 2021 and you can sign up for the webinar here.

IT now widely used

BCS has long campaigned for the comprehensive and wide-ranging provision of digital education and training to address the skills gap. Currently, almost 70 per cent of employers are struggling to find workers with the right skills, which is costing British industry billions.

Annette added: ‘There’s never been such a significant demand for digital skills - not just for an increasing number of digital occupations, but across all occupations as a result of businesses having to digitally transform during COVID. For instance, staff in hospitality and shops now regularly use technology to continue to provide their services.

‘In other areas, there are significant shortages of skilled people in vital sectors such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, and software development. In addition, the digital transformation in the NHS has accelerated during the pandemic with technology being widely used across the service.’

In her speech, the Queen said her ministers will bring forward legislation to allow the NHS to ‘innovate and embrace technology’.

Jobs for the future

BCS is also part of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) consortium, which provides thousands of school and college teachers with training to deliver a comprehensive computer science education in the classroom.

Julia Adamson, Director of Education at BCS, said: ‘We welcome the move to increase opportunities for people of all ages to enhance their digital skills and employment choices. This will expand on the work of the NCCE across schools and colleges to deliver world class computing education and the skills we need for our workforces in the future.

Speaking before the Queen’s speech, the prime minister, Boris Johnson said: ‘I'm revolutionising the system so we can move past the outdated notion that there is only one route up the career ladder and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to retrain or upskill at any point in their lives.’

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, due to be introduced shortly, aims to create a post-16 and adult education and training system.

Key points of the legislative measures include:

  • A new student finance system to change the current student loans system, giving every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives.
  • Employers to have a statutory role in planning publicly funded training programmes with education providers through a Skills Accelerator programme.
  • The Secretary of State for Education will have more powers to intervene in colleges that fail to meet local needs, and to direct structural change where needed to ensure the provider improves.

Find out more