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O2 HRD: Britain needs more digital talent

The UK needs more than two million digitally skilled workers to reach its potential, according to O2 HRD Ann Pickering

Britain will need 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to fulfil the UK’s digital potential, according to research published by O2.

The researchers found that an additional 766,000 digital jobs are to be created between now and 2020. They warned that further action must be taken if the UK is to capitalise on the growth opportunity in the digital economy.

O2 HR director Ann Pickering told HR magazine that the number represents a huge chance for young people starting to choose their careers. “That’s a very stark number, and what it will do is create lots of opportunities for young people,” she said.

Pickering recently spoke to young people at an event to discuss the role of digital technology in the future.

“What I was trying to do was help them understand that they actually have those necessary digital skills in abundance already,” she said. “The first question I asked was how many of them thought they were digital natives and only one person put their hand up. The next question I asked was how many of them went on Twitter or Instagram this morning before they came out, and everybody put their hands up.”

She added: “I wanted them to realise they are naturally digital in the way they lead their lives, and they need to start thinking about telling that story when they are at an interview with an employer or with colleges and universities.

“They have these skills innately and older generations don’t, they grew up with the internet. That figure is not frightening, it’s really exciting and will give young people some great career opportunities.”

Of the jobs being created, almost half (47%) will be based in London and the South East. Just 8% will be created in the North West and East of England, which are the two areas with the next highest level of digital job creation.

Pickering does not think this will present a big obstacle. “This government seems very committed to the idea of the 'Northern powerhouse'. It wants to create a much more equal North-South divide. I do think companies will start to shift out of London.”