The gap between two office-blocks

Digital muggles, citizens, workers and makers

We’ve explored the idea that immersion in technology does not guarantee competence in crucial digital skills; that education and practice is required to develop these essential capabilities in relation to information and technology. But is there evidence of a gap in the digital skills of the current workforce? Do we need more expert digital practitioners in order to compete with other nations? What impact could digital skills shortages have on countries’ performance globally?

In 2015 the UK Select Committee on Digital Skills, appointed by the House of Lords “to consider and report on information and communications technology, competitiveness and skills in the United Kingdom”, raised alarm bells in their Make or break report. They referred to work by the UK Forum for Computing Education (UKForCE) into the skills required for different occupations. UKForCE outline 4 categories of skill levels required for the population of the labour market:

Digital muggle

“… no digital skills required—digital technology may as well be magic”.

Digital citizen

“… the ability to use digital technology purposefully and confidently to communicate, find information and purchase goods/services”.

Digital worker

“… at the higher end, the ability to evaluate, configure and use complex digital systems. Elementary programming skills such as scripting are often required for these tasks”.

Digital maker

“… skills sufficient to build digital technology (typically software development)”.

They used this framework to analyse the 361 Standard Occupation Codes, a common classification system used to map all occupations in the UK according to their skill level and skill content, to show the following:

Percentage of the UK workforce in each category

Digital muggle - 2.2m (7%); Digital citizen - 10.8m (37%); Digital worker - 13.6m (46%); Digital maker - 2.9m (10%)

According to these figures 93% of the workforce require, at a minimum, the digital skills encompassed in the Digital Citizen category, with only 7% requiring no competence for their jobs. It’s interesting to see just how many people fall into the citizen and worker categories and to think about the levels of sophistication of the digital skills required as outlined in the report.

You may find it interesting to take a quick test to explore your own digital capabilities. Please do come back and use the Comments functionality to discuss the questions below.

If you are (or have been) an employee/employer:

  • Do you see any evidence of digital skills shortages in your workplace?
  • Do you think your organisation maximises the potential of new technologies and the digital talent of employees?
  • Do you think there is a pressure on some employees to fulfill roles that are outside of their skill set?

If you are a student or have been at school, college or University in very recent years:

  • Did you find that the institution helped raise your awareness of the digital skills required in the workforce?
  • Do you think it should be mandatory for staff in educational institutions to upskill digitally in order that they can better develop the digital awareness and skills of students?

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This article is from the free online course:

Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society

University of York