Leader Perspective – Felicity Burch, Director of Innovation and Digital, CBI

Digital transformation is set to bring seismic changes to all parts of the UK economy.

Automation and technology will create millions of new jobs, increasing employer demand for digital, STEM and interpersonal skills. And not just in the tech industry – a recent CBI member survey found 75% of firms across multiple sectors expect to invest more in digital skills than they did in previous years.

The pandemic has only accelerated businesses uptake of technology over the past year. Responding to the CBI’s 2020 tech tracker survey, 83% of firms told us they are investing in innovation to increase productivity.

Unsurprisingly, most of this was focused on video conferencing and cloud computing. What differed from previous years is that this kind of investment has become business critical.

With new technology comes the need for new skills. The CBI’s latest report on reskilling makes the case for a huge increase in reskilling investment between now and 2030 – around £130bn.

Employers will need to step-up by introducing plans to reskill their workforces and encouraging continual learning.

Key policy changes should also be delivered by Government to unlock greater business investment, such as a more flexible ‘skills and training levy’ that allows firms to fund broader forms of training, and a training tax credit for SMEs. Investment in support for individuals with the most acute training needs is also crucial.

Without intervention, we are likely to see a further widening of skills gaps and growing inequality, and risk losing the opportunities and increased competitiveness that digital transformation can bring.