NI employees are second most digitally skilled group in the UK

| September 15, 2017

digitally skilledNew research from Barclays reveals that Northern Irish employees are second only to Londoners as the UK’s most digitally skilled, however there are simply not enough of them to fulfil jobs demand.

The Barclays Digital Development Index 2017, which analysed 88,000 UK job adverts, found that 70 per cent of jobs advertised in Northern Ireland require basic digital skills such as word-processing, database spreadsheet or social media management skills. However, a separate assessment of 6,000 UK adults found that only 57 per cent of the Northern Irish workforce have these capabilities, with the skills gap most profound amongst older workers.

The research highlights a major local skills gap, which, if not addressed will worsen as digital skills become even more vital to businesses. The Barclays Digital Development Index also revealed that despite being amongst the UK’s most digitally capable, people in Northern Ireland are some of the most digitally unsafe, with 10.5 per cent of people experiencing a purchase scam in the past three years.

If local people were to upskill their digital capabilities, the job advert analysis shows that employers will pay an additional salary premium of up to £10,000 a year for more advanced digital skills including programming and software design.

Over five to ten years, this additional income could make all the difference to someone saving for a house deposit, feeling the financial squeeze of caring for relatives, covering tuition fees or saving for retirement, particularly in the current economic climate where inflation is outstripping wage growth.

And although they have up to 30 years left in their working lives, it seems Generation X (35-54 year olds) are at risk of being left behind. Those aged 35-44 are 11 per cent less likely than their millennial colleagues to say they are “very confident” about their digital skills. Generation X workers are also worried about their ability to keep their skills up-to-date (23 per cent have confidence in their ability to do so, versus 28 per cent for millennials).

Adrian Doran, Barclays, Head of Corporate Banking Northern Ireland, said: “People’s level of digital capability is fast becoming a key determinant of their earning power, as is particularly evident in Northern Ireland. The digital skills gap is widely reported and these statistics highlight the importance of including digital skills in our education and training programmes to ensure Northern Ireland has the workforce it needs for the future economy. The recent influx of global firms establishing a base here means that skills demand is higher than ever. With a limited pool, this competition means businesses are willing to pay above market rate to secure top digital talent – it’s definitely a seller’s market right now if you have the right digital skills.

“We have a responsibility to support the provision of an appropriately trained and skilled workforce to aid Northern Ireland’s growth and expansion, which is why we developed Digital Wings, a free online tool anyone can use to boost their digital skills. We also include digital training within our LifeSkills programme, a free curriculum-linked resource for 11-24 year olds, which was introduced here earlier this year and will help over 21,000 young people by 2019.

“At a time when wage growth is so important to families in Northern Ireland, we need to act fast to improve our home-grown digital skills if we are to stay at the forefront of the global digital economy post-Brexit.”

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