Findings from a new study have revealed that digital skills[i] generate income and revenue premiums for both individuals and industries in the UK, and advanced digital skills alone – such as cloud architecture and software development – could raise annual gross domestic product (GDP) in the UK by an estimated £67.8 billion each year by boosting the income and productivity of workers.
However, there remains a skills gap to unlocking this value and helping the UK digital economy to reach its full potential. Currently, 72% of businesses surveyed in the UK have a vacancy for workers with digital skills, but only 11% of UK workers possess advanced digital skills. More than two thirds (68%) of businesses find it challenging to hire the digital workers they need, and 45% say this is due to a shortage of qualified applicants.
Gallup and AWS collaborated to conduct one of the largest international surveys of its type, polling more than 30,000 workers and 9,300 hiring managers in 19 countries, including the UK. In addition, to assess the skills most needed by today’s employers, Gallup analysed Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass) data on all advertised job vacancies in 33 countries from mid-2021 to mid-2022.
The research, which is part of Amazon’s ongoing commitment to provide free cloud computing skills training to 29 million people by 2025, offers four key insights.
Digital skills investment delivers dividends
The research shows that organisations that integrate advanced digital skills, digital technologies, and cloud technology realise rates of revenue growth and innovation that are notably higher than those that do not.
UK organisations that run most of their business on the cloud are 55% more likely to have introduced a new product in the last two years and 45% more likely to have experienced steady or higher revenue growth compared to those that do not run most of their business on the cloud.
Individuals see benefits too. UK workers with advanced digital skills (such as cloud architecture, software development and machine learning) earn 30% more than those with no digital skills. This translates into individual gains in the region of £11,568 annually. Meanwhile, jobs vacancies in the UK that require 10 or more digital skills pay 48% higher salaries than those requiring no digital skills.
Digitally skilled workers in the UK have higher job satisfaction and productivity
The research also revealed that employees in the UK have a lot to gain from building and advancing their digital skills. Digital skills mastery is linked to significant gains in employee job satisfaction. The findings show that digitally skilled workers are not only better paid, they are also happier in their jobs, more efficient, and believe they have a better chance of promotion.
More than half (58%) of workers with advanced digital skills expressed high job satisfaction, compared to 43% of workers with basic or intermediate digital skills. Among those with advanced skills, 44% say digital skills training has made them more efficient in their work, 50% believe it has improved their opportunities to be promoted, and 42% received an increase in salary.
Among the 33% of UK workers who completed digital skills training in the past year, 99% say their career has experienced at least one positive benefit as a result.
British workers are hungry to learn, but barriers to acquiring digital skills still remain
According to the research, two-thirds (67%) of British digital workers are “extremely interested” or “very interested” in obtaining digital skills training.
However, 93% of those who are very interested in additional training say they face at least one barrier to acquiring that training. 51% cite a lack of time as an impediment, followed by a lack of financial resources (34%), and knowledge of the skills needed to advance in their careers (32%).
In the research, 56% of those who were very interested in additional training reported that their digital skills were self-taught.
Building a future-ready workforce
Hiring the digital skills required to meet today’s needs is challenging enough, but organisations also need to prepare for the hiring challenges of the future. The innovation of new, disruptive technologies shows no sign of stopping.
When asked how likely it is that ten emerging technologies such as 5G, cryptocurrency and the Metaverse will become a standard part of their business in the future, more than half (53%) of British employers rated the likelihood of at least one technology as an eight or higher on a scale of zero to ten. More than a third (38%) believe multiple technologies will become standard, and 7% say all ten will be a part of their organisation’s business in the future.
At the same time, responses from workers show that there is a significant knowledge gap and currently fall short in understanding the emerging technologies that are driving the digital revolution. A third (34%) of UK workers with at least basic digital skills say they have heard of but could not define the ten emerging technologies in the study, and a further 24% had no familiarity at all. Advancing the digital skills of employees will help organisations to innovate and take advantage of the potential of these new technologies.
Upskilling 29 million people in cloud computing skills for free by 2025
AWS has committed to investing hundreds of millions of pounds to provide free cloud computing skills training for 29 million people by 2025 – reaching people from all walks of life and all levels of technical knowledge, in more than 200 countries including the UK.
To help prepare the UK’s future-ready workforce and address the growing need for digitally skilled talent, we have launched a number of learning and skills programmes including AWS Educate, AWS Academy, and AWS re/Start. We have also launched free training initiatives such as AWS Skill Builder, a digital learning experience that allows anyone with an internet connection and a desire to learn to access over 600 free, on-demand courses in 16 different languages, and AWS Cloud Quest: Cloud Practitioner, a game-based role-playing experience which teaches foundational cloud computing concepts while learners zap drones and collect gems in their quest to solve challenges in a virtual city.
Alongside our skills programmes, we also help our customers to develop an innovative learning culture and build in-house cloud skills. For example, in 2021, we rolled out the AWS Digital Innovation Programme for Small & Medium Businesses which is designed to help small and medium sized businesses to bring ideas to market faster. The pilot programme, which first launched in the East of England with regional community group Tech East, has since expanded across the UK including in Oxford, Milton Keynes, and Cambridge with the Silverstone Technology Cluster, and through the Scottish Government’s Digital Boost programme.
This is in addition to Amazon’s digital skills initiatives in the UK that include the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, a free educational programme for anyone who wants to start or grow an online business; Prime Video Pathway, which in collaboration with UK’s National Film and Television School provides an academy programme with the opportunity to apply for a range of craft and technical roles on Prime Video commissioned productions in the UK; and Career Choice, which allows Amazon employees to pursue further education and skills training through a variety of programmes.
Read the full AWS Global Digital Skills Study.
[i] The term “digital skills” refers to the ability to effectively use digital devices, communication applications, and electronic information networks to perform work.