Help the digital skills crisis by supporting industry-led training

Welcoming today’s budget announcement, which commits additional funding to skills development, trade bodies and professional associations across the UK are calling on the government to support industry-led jobs and skills training programmes – to address the UK’s digital skills crisis and strengthen its economic recovery from coronavirus.

The Data and Marketing Association (DMA), Market Research Society (MRS), and Advertising Association (AA) propose that a portion of the increased funding for the National Skills Fund should be dedicated to industry-led qualifications to help fill thousands of immediate job openings. The UK Government has an opportunity to provide effective training programmes developed by employers for employers, which will ensure professionals are equipped with the skillsets that are most desirable to prospective employers.

With the Help to Grow Scheme and Digital Boot Camps, the UK Government is already doing a considerable amount to help people upskill, but much more can be done to achieve the ambitions of both the National Data Strategy and levelling up agenda. Trade and professional bodies play a valuable but under recognised role in adult education and lifelong learning and are keen to partner up with the government to make further progress.

For many professional services companies, trade and professional associations provide a catalogue of essential training schemes and qualifications that have been developed with employers, to ensure that the content is relevant and practical, particularly in digital marketing, advertising and market research. These skills in particular drive growth by helping companies find new customers and better communicate with existing customers.

“The government is missing a huge opportunity to reduce the vast digital skills gaps that exist across the economy and should allocate a specific budget to trade association qualifications. Trade and professional bodies are best placed to help with their strong industry connections and understanding of the skills that employers require most,” said Chris Combemale CEO of the Data and Marketing Association. “All such qualifications are developed by employers for employers. Crucially, these employers have the jobs that need filling immediately and trust the quality of training provided by their industry association.”

Jane Frost CBE, CEO of the Market Research Society said: “The recovery and growth of the research sector is being jeopardised by a shortage of skills. Companies in our sector, particularly SMEs, are being priced out in a bidding war for talent. The need to solve this is immediate and reskilling older workers is vital. Associations like ourselves do not need to consult employers on their needs or familiarise ourselves with the market, because employers are our members. MRS is a world leader in research qualifications and training. Like other associations, we are recognised by employers and employees alike. We offer a safe place where older workers can retrain with others like themselves in immediately saleable skills without the potential stigma of “going back to college.”

Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association added: “There is a desperate shortage of digital marketing and advertising talent. AA research shows that £1 spent on advertising generates £6 of GDP. For this investment to be successful it is critical that digital marketers know how to plan a campaign, determine the right channel strategy and can create compelling content that engages their customers.”

Trade and professional bodies have a profound reach with the SME and business community across the UK, so empowering them to deliver skills programmes that will upskill and reskill the UK workforce will contribute to economic growth and help businesses recover from the pandemic.