UKTN report: Digital skills in the education ecosystem will cement the UK's place as a global hub for innovation 

Categories: Salford Business School

Digital skills in the education ecosystem will cement the UK's place as a global hub for innovation

Article authored by Professor Janice Allan, Dean of Salford Business School for UKTN regional report  

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the demand for digital skills has never been greater. As technology continues to transform industries, businesses and societies, the need for individuals to be equipped with essential digital capabilities is paramount. By incorporating digital skills as an integral part of the education ecosystem, the UK can leverage its rich history of innovation and technological advancements to further enhance its position as a global hub for innovation. 

The changing nature of work 

Industry 4.0 and the digital revolution has disrupted traditional work models, creating a demand for new skills and competencies. In the past, leaving university or college with a good qualification in your chosen subject was often enough to secure career success. However, in today's job market, having strong digital capabilities is crucial. Employers expect graduates to arrive on their first day with the digital skills necessary to thrive in a modern, often hybrid or remote working environment. Moreover, to seize future opportunities, graduates are increasingly required to have a working knowledge of technologies such as data analytics, AI and cloud computing. 

According to research conducted by Microsoft, 69% of leaders believe their organisations are currently facing a digital skills gap. LinkedIn's data further supports this finding, revealing that six out of the 10 areas with the largest skills gap in the UK require advanced digital capabilities. To add to this, only 28% of UK business leaders feel the education system adequately supplies digital training – something we’re actively working to change. This disconnect between industry demands and educational offerings highlights the urgent need to make digital skills an integral part of the education ecosystem. It is this recognition that sits at the heart of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s vision of a post-16 technical education pathway, as well as the new Greater Manchester Institute of Technology opening on the Salford campus in September 2023. 

Preparing graduates for future opportunities 

Salford Business School is currently leading the charge in tackling the digital skills gap by taking a proactive stance. We recognise the transformative power of digital skills and their critical importance in shaping the future workforce. Our commitment to equipping graduates with the necessary digital competencies is evident in our curriculum and approach to teaching. We have, moreover, made significant investment in edtech, including immersive technologies and serious game simulations, to extend the reach of digital and real-world learning. 

By embracing and embedding emerging technologies, we ensure our programmes reflect the changing needs of the digital era. We offer a wide range of courses and opportunities for students to delve into areas such as digital transformation, data analytics and AI, to name a few. By integrating these technologies into our curriculum and providing practical, industry-relevant experiences, we empower our students to meet the demands of the job market head-on.  
Aligned with the vision of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham for an integrated digital skills region, Salford Business School fully embraces the Manchester Baccalaureate (MBacc) as a pathway to digital readiness. The MBacc offers students an alternative educational journey that emphasises technical education and the acquisition of digital skills. Embedding digital skills into the curriculum and offering young people alternate pathways to continue their development will ensure an inclusive, thriving future workforce that’s equipped with the essential digital capabilities needed in an increasingly technology-driven society. 

The digital revolution is ongoing, with advancements and disruptions occurring at an accelerated pace. To excel in this dynamic environment, graduates must possess not only digital skills but also the ability to adapt and upskill throughout their careers. At Salford Business School, we foster a culture of lifelong learning, providing continuous professional development opportunities, micro-credentials and executive education programs. We equip our graduates with the tools and resources to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in an ever-evolving digital world. 

Empowering graduates is empowering the UK 

The time to act is now. The UK has the potential to become a global leader in the digital age, but it requires a collective effort from educational institutions, industry partners and policymakers. By making digital skills a priority and integrating them into the education ecosystem, we can unleash the full potential of our future workforce, drive economic growth, and solidify the UK's position as a global hub for innovation.