Keeping London at the forefront of global business
working with and for the whole UK
Upskilling for a fairer UK
16 July 2020
Over the past few months, the skills crisis has never been more evident. Those with access to technology have been able to work remotely, safely, and spend time during the pandemic learning new digital skills. For those without, digital upskilling has not been possible, and many may find themselves in jobs at risk from automation. While we cannot, and should not halt the tide of technology, we need to help people develop new skills to adapt to different work.
At PwC, we’ve been closely examining the impacts of the skills gap on the UK workforce. Last year, our Future of Government research found that young people in cities — particularly in London — are more excited about the prospect of learning new skills than the average UK citizen. In contrast, people in low paying jobs, who are at high risk of job loss due to automation, currently have less appetite to upskill.
Upskilling the population will improve productivity, increase access to opportunities and build economic resilience. This is a clear challenge for the whole of the UK, and we must prioritise the most vulnerable.
Practical recommendations for government
Upskilling a nation is a huge challenge — but the UK is not alone in tackling it. Our “New World. New Skills.” research shows the need to upskill is a global issue, requiring local, regional, and national collaboration.
The PwC government team has three key recommendations for closing the digital divide:
Governments should fund higher education institutionsto provide new digital skills courses and qualifications, free to all.
The nationwide rollout of digital infrastructure – including high-bandwidth broadband and 5G – should be accelerated to accommodate remote working.
And the government will need to accelerate its own transformation.Radical digital transformation is now essential to make the public sector affordable and resilient, and to match public expectations.
A global challenge
Digital skills comes up regularly as a key concern in our global CEO survey. And this year is no different: our interim results show that CEOs picked “remote collaboration” as their top trend driving long-term change to their business models.
Last year, PwC made a global $3bn commitment to upskilling our people. This has involved creating online resource hubs, podcasts and digital academies. Our free Digital Fitness app, which is available to anyone, anywhere in the world, has been downloaded more than 215,000 times.
Having a digitally-enabled workforce also enables us – and others – to withstand disruption. In March, we were able to pivot very quickly when COVID-19 restrictions were imposed. Our workforce of 23,000 people shifted — essentially overnight — to remote working, without impeding the service we offer our clients.
The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the need for a fair approach to upskilling. There are many things the government and businesses need to do better, both for the capital to thrive and for it to better support the UK as a whole. And as we begin to rebuild our economy, the time for action is now.
To learn more about how business and government can work together to address the skills challenge, listen to the latest episode of London First’s “What next for London?” podcast now