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Digital and data skills

Digital and data skills cover a broad range of knowledge and competency areas. They range from basic abilities such as usage of foundational IT tools at one end to high value programming and analytical techniques at the other. There is a growing interest from government and industry in how the UK can realise the full potential offered by digital and data skills and capabilities.

focus in this post on three critical aspects of the digital and data skills environment which need to be understood to get the most out of these capabilities.

Key insights

We need to be specific when talking about data and digital skills

The terms data and digital skills cover a wide array of competencies, knowledge, and skills. In a project for the Geospatial Commission, we analysed real time job vacancy data to segment and track postings which specified some form of geospatial data skill. Even within this specific subset of digital skills we identified multiple clusters of geospatial skills by capability (e.g. data collection, data interpretation and sector specific), We also identified multiple categories of geospatial job posting, each of which required its own unique blend of geospatial skills. This highlights the importance of using an up-to-date comprehensive skills taxonomy that allows specific data and digital skills needs to be identified, classified and tracked over time. These taxonomies could in the future be linked to online vacancy data to inform skills shortages within and across specific jobs.

Job seekers need a rounded package of skills

Our examination of online job vacancy data highlighted that non-technical skills are always sought alongside digital skills. Unsurprisingly the precise mix varied across different types of role. Co-occurring capabilities included soft skills such as communication as well as more technical project management abilities with the specific mix varying both within and across sectors of the economy. Understanding the bundle of skills (both digital and non-digital) required for a specific role is vital as it will determine the interventions and education programmes that are needed to adequately prepare job seekers. This reinforces the need for occupation specific skill taxonomies which then could be linked to the National Qualifications Framework for example.

The mix of digital and non-digital skills varies across the country

As part of our work on the demand for geospatial skills we identified the labour markets (defined by travel to work areas) with relatively high proportion of geospatial postings (relative to all job postings) in Scotland, the South East of England, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as London. The precise mix of digital and non-digital skills demanded were found to vary according to the specific types of geospatial activities undertaken in those areas. This emphasises the need for governments and policymakers to rely on up-to-date information that allows for exploration of local area digital skills in terms of both demand and supply.

For more information on our work on data and digital skills please click here.


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