09 Nov

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) has begun a consultation about the introduction of new BDSQs [Basic Digital Skills Qualifications] that are designed to improve the digital skills of adults across England.

What’s the Problem?

Research by UK domain name company Nominet, for example, has shown that less than half of adults have the digital skills needed to easily complete a number of common tech tasks, with only 42% of adults being able to easily complete digital tasks such as downloading apps, uploading videos or using online maps. The same research from October 2017 showed that:

  • Older people struggled more with their digital skills
  • Only 46% of those born between 1965 and 1980 (Generation X) have appropriate digital skills.
  • 64% of millennials could be described as “digitally savvy”.
  • Surprisingly, only 34% of ‘digital natives’ Generation Z (those born from 1997 and onward) could be considered “digitally savvy”.

The results of this and similar research indicate that those without a good basic digital skill level could lose money in savings from online shopping, could miss out on work and other important opportunities, and could be prevented from fully participating in society. Also, with a digital skills gap costing the UK economy approximately £63bn a year, and after Brexit, tech skills are going to become an even more important advantage.

The New Qualifications

The latest consultation about the proposed new BDSQs [Basic Digital Skills Qualifications] is part of the government’s investment in increasing the level of digital skills in adults throughout the country, and it has been reported that Department for Education (DfE) is aiming to introduce a national entitlement to basic digital skills by 2020.

The qualifications, which will be ‘Beginner’ level for those with no previous digital / Internet experience, and ‘Essential’ for adults with some experience, will cover what the DfE believes to be the five key skill areas which are handling information, creating and editing digital content, communication, transacting, and being safe and responsible online.

Delivery of the Qualifications

The delivery of the training for BDSQs will be undertaken by organisations or providers selected by the DfE, and students will be expected to have received a minimum of 45 guided learning hours.

Providers will have some flexibility in designing and delivering the qualifications, but will be required to follow existing naming conventions to make employers and learners more comfortable with the qualifications’ delivery.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The UK, and specifically England in this case, has been suffering from an IT / digital skills gap for several years now. This has affected the competitiveness of UK businesses and poses a major challenge to the UK government’s vision of making the UK global technology centre. A further digital skills drain and drought caused by Brexit fears, and an apparent lack of people graduating from colleges and universities with the right digital skills has added to the need for the government to do something now to increase the home-grown digital skill level among adults in England.

These new qualifications should ultimately help businesses and the wider economy by helping more adults to take a greater part in a society that relies more on digital communications and transactions, improve their employment prospects, and give employers more opportunities and choice in getting the skills into their businesses that they need.