It’s time to create national digital skills colleges, MPs say

It’s time to create national digital skills colleges, MPs say

The government should work with the FE sector to create a network of digital skills colleges across the country, a group of MPs has said.

This is one of a number of recommendations made by the Commons science and technology select committee in its Digital Skills Crisis report, published on Monday (June 13), based on the findings of a recent inquiry into what needs to be done to overcome the digital skills gap in the workplace, education and apprenticeships.

The proposed new digital colleges should “replicate the National College for Digital Skills model across the country”, the report said.

The National College for Digital Skills is one of five new employer-led colleges to receive government funding to boost specialist skills for certain industries. It is due to launch in September.

The report also called for digital skills to be made one of the core components of all apprenticeships – not just digital apprenticeships.

The MPs cited evidence from the Tech Partnership — which has developed a number of new Trailblazer standards in digital skills — that the number of starts on digital degree apprenticeships had increased by 21 per cent in 2014/15, to 17,000.

But they said the government should “emphasise the need for more digital skills components in all apprenticeships, not just ‘digital apprenticeships’, to gear them to the needs for jobs across the economy” and “make digital skills the focus of its three million apprenticeship target”.

Nicola Blackwood MP, the chair of the science and technology select committee, urged the government to take “concerted action” to ensure “tomorrow’s workforce” has “the digital skills that employers need”.

She said: “The government deserves credit for action taken so far but it needs to go much further and faster.

“We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships.”

The new report came on the same day that the House of Lords debated its digital skills select committee report, Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future, which was published in February last year.

During the debate, a number of peers reiterated a recommendation from the report, that vocational qualifications must to be made more responsive to the needs of business.

Lord Knight of Weymouth, who is also chair of digital inclusion charity the Tinder Foundation, called for “much more agility in the skills system”.

He said: “Increasingly we will need employers to credential skills because we cannot wait for our cumbersome qualification system to keep up.”

And Lady Morgan (pictured), chair of the digital skills committee, said that current vocational qualifications “are not necessarily what business wants, nor are they fully understood by business”.

She urged the government to publish its digital skills strategy, which was due out earlier this year but which has not yet appeared.

Such a strategy should “include full details of soft infrastructure — education and skills — as well as hard infrastructure”, she said.