Select Committee on Digital Skills - Report of Session 2014–15

Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future


Appendix 3: Call for evidence

The Digital Skills Committee of the House of Lords, chaired by Baroness Morgan of Huyton, is conducting an inquiry into digital skills in the UK. The Committee invites interested individuals and organisations to submit evidence to this inquiry.

Written evidence is sought by 5 September 2014. The submissions we receive will guide the Committee’s deliberations in oral evidence sessions later this year, and also inform the Committee’s final conclusions and recommendations. Public hearings began in early July and will continue until late November. The Committee aims to report to the House with recommendations in late January 2015. The report will receive a response from the Government, and will be debated in the House.

Background

The terms of reference for the inquiry are “to consider information and communications technology, competitiveness and skills in the United Kingdom” and to report by 5 March 2015.

The Committee has decided to set the inquiry within the policy framework of rapidly changing technology and to examine what this means for the labour market. Recent and future developments in technology are changing the world in a number of ways, both positive and negative. In one study of US occupations by the University of Oxford, for example, it was found that 47% of total employment is at risk of “computerisation”.547

The inquiry will therefore focus on the changes to the system which are likely to occur as a consequence, and whether the UK’s workforce has the necessary digital skills to deal with this change.

The Committee will examine how prepared the workforce is for these changes. The digital industries currently predict a significant skills shortage. High-tech education is important in many industries. The need for digital skills can be divided into two groups: the need for a general workforce able to work in an increasingly digital environment (skills for digital competitiveness); and the need for more specialists to build and maintain that environment (high-level digital skills). Conversely, the ONS estimated in 2012 that seven million people in the UK had never used the internet.548 The CBI surveys show that since 2008 at least half of employers have expressed concerns about IT skills in their workforce.549

We are keen to examine where the changing digital landscape leaves the UK in terms of global economic competitiveness. Questions in this area include:

The Committee is keen to take evidence from a wide range of stakeholders working in a variety of sectors. This includes, but is not limited to: businesses, and their representative organisations (including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)); academics; local government/authorities; consultancies; sector skills councils; technology membership bodies; technology companies; telecommunications companies; digital literacy groups; civil society and non-governmental organisations; European bodies; apprenticeship schemes; careers guidance bodies; education in schools; lifelong learning organisations; and organisations working with hard to reach groups.

The Committee does not intend to inquire into the content of the new computing curriculum, due to be delivered in schools from September 2014. Nor does the Committee intend to inquire into specific digital technologies.

Issues

The Committee seeks evidence on any aspect of this topic, and particularly on the following questions:

The changing technological landscape

(1)What is the pace and change of the future digital technology landscape over the next five, 10 and 15 years? What are the leading innovations?

(2)What are the main challenges for economic growth as the UK transitions to a knowledge-driven economy?

(3)What is the employment impact on the UK’s labour market? What are the regional differences?

Future workforce

(4)What skills do future workers need in order for the UK to be globally competitive? How do the digital skills required for technical roles compare to those needed by the wider workforce to operate in a digitally competitive environment? Can the current supply chain deliver this?

(5)How are we teaching students in a way that inspires and prepares them for careers in the future workforce in occupations that may not yet exist, rather than the current one? How can this be improved?

(6)How are schools preparing to deliver the new computing curriculum in an innovative way?

(7)How can the education system develop creativity and social skills more effectively?

(8)How does the current post-16 system inspire and equip students to pursue careers in the future workforce in occupations that may not yet exist? How can this be improved?

Short- and medium-term support to the digital sector

(9)How can the digital sector be supported in the short- and medium-term? What is the role for higher and vocational education, national colleges, industry, and industrial policy?

(10)Is there a need for increased high skills immigration in the short-term? What are the implications of this?

(11)Is there an inclusion agenda in relation to digital skills in the workplace? How are groups with protected characteristics such as older people, those with disabilities, and women, being engaged? How can this be improved?

(12)What do the best local skills delivery models look like? What is the role for local Government, Local Enterprise Partnerships and the third sector?

Industry

(13)What are the barriers for businesses, particularly SMEs preparing to operate in a knowledge-driven economy? How are these best overcome?

(14)How can businesses help equip the workforce with new skills in a rapidly changing environment?

Infrastructure

(15)Does the UK have a competitive infrastructure to support a knowledge-driven economy? How does the UK compare to other countries?

You need not address all these questions in your response.

26 June 2014

547 University of Oxford, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation? (September 2013): http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf [accessed 9 February 2015]

549 CBI, Changing the pace: CBI/Pearson education and skills survey 2013 (June 2013): http://www.cbi.org.uk/media/2119176/education_and_skills_survey_2013.pdf [accessed 9 February 2015]