Shortage of digital skills hampers Norfolk business productivity and growth

  • Digital skills are increasingly important to the operation of businesses in Norfolk
    Digital skills are increasingly important to the operation of businesses in Norfolk
  • The evidence is clear: better digital skills make Norfolk firms more productive, and a lack of digital skills holds them back.
    The evidence is clear: better digital skills make Norfolk firms more productive, and a lack of digital skills holds them back.

Digital skills are increasingly important to the operation of businesses in Norfolk and the rest of the UK but companies are facing a shortage of skills in their workforce which is hampering productivity, according to a new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), released today (Friday).

More than 1,400 business in the UK took part in the survey, including those in Norfolk.  The Norfolk results showed that 83% of firms say digital and IT skills are more important to their business than two years ago, with half (54%) saying these skills are significantly more important.

However, the survey also found that more than three-in-four businesses are facing a shortage of digital skills in their workforce, with 56% reporting a slight shortage, 17% a significant one and 4% a critical shortage.

The Norfolk key findings of the survey are:

  • The skills most important to companies are basic computer skills (70%), communicating and connecting through digital channels (74%) and management of digital information (69%)
  • Skills shortages are having adverse effects on many firms including, increasing workload on existing staff (53%), higher operating costs (33%), and causing difficulties in meeting customer requirements (18%)
  • Businesses regard a lack of time for staff training (29%), difficulty in identifying appropriate training (27%), and the high cost of training (15%), as the leading barriers to rectifying these shortages.

Nova Fairbank, Public Affairs Manager of Norfolk Chamber said:

“The evidence is clear: better digital skills make Norfolk firms more productive, and a lack of digital skills holds them back.

“Businesses themselves can do a lot more to tackle the digital skills shortages they face.  They need to be aware that a failure to tackle this issue will ultimately impact on their bottom line. If no action is taken, then firms could get stuck in an unproductive cycle, where a lack of action will have serious consequences.

“Training providers in our region can help by engaging with companies on their digital needs and help them to free up resources for growth.  Equally, the government must help as well, by recognising that some of the high-level digital skills local businesses need will come from overseas, so a pragmatic immigration system needs to be in place to provide Norfolk companies with access to the workers required to fill some of the gaps.”

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