Study: The majority of jobs now require digital skills

Foundational digital skills may range from typing, to using mobile applications, to using common software packages like Microsoft. — Photo by Headway on Unsplash

A record 92% of jobs now require definitely digital or likely digital skills, according to a new report from the National Skills Coalition.

While digital skills training programs are increasing nationwide, gaps remain that government agencies can and should address. Although progress has been made, gaps still exist.

The report, titled Closing the Digital Skills Divide: The Payoff for Workers, Business and the Economy, was released in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. It was created using empirical data from 43 million online job postings listed in 2021 to assess the economic demand for digital skills across industries.

Although the specific digital skills needed varied by industry, there were two main categories of the skills needed: foundational and industry-specific skills, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, NSC senior fellow and an author of the report, explained.

Foundational digital skills may range from typing, to using mobile applications, to using common software packages like Microsoft. Industry-specific skills include specific platforms or software packages common to an industry, which may be different for workers in the real estate industry and workers in the food service industry.

Bergson-Shilcock underlined the importance of digital resilience, which she defines as the ability to continually learn different types of industry-specific skills.

"This is about being nimble enough to respond as your job changes over time, and your career evolves over time, and as the kind of digital skills you need change over time," she said, underlining that a lot of digital upskilling involves building bridges from the skills people have to the skills they need or will need in the future.

From this perspective, she underlined that skill-building programs must be specific to the needs of those participating. She suggested that policymakers start by doubling down on investments in the systems and processes already being used to gather input from employers to obtain a clearer understanding of specific needs of the community being served. After all, it is not helpful for people to be trained for jobs that do not actually exist in their communities.

Training programs also need to provide contextualized, integrated education so that people understand the real-world application of the digital skills they are learning, she added.

In providing digital skills training, government agencies will also be investing in economic mobility. Bergson-Shilcock stated that the study shows definitively that there is a strong correlation between jobs that require digital skills and higher wages.

The report's findings reveal that jobs that require at least one digital skill pay 23% more than those that do not, which in turn leads to greater tax revenue.

Chart says "Jobs that require digital skills pay more." Bar chart shows US$17.62 (RM75) wage for jobs that require no digital skills, US$21.64 (RM93) for those that require one, US$25.50 (RM109) for those that require three, and US$43 (RM184) for those that require nine.

Bergson-Shilcock also noted that because of occupational segregation, workers of color are more likely to be in jobs that don't pay as well, or jobs where employers may not invest in upskilling.

"We cannot afford to not invest in anybody's skills here, because there's no job in our labor market that does not now – or soon will – require digital skills."

To provide inclusive access to training for all individuals, organizations also need to think about other barriers to participation such as child care and transportation.

While some states previously targeted older adults for digital skills training programs, Bergson-Shilcock notes that training is also needed for younger adults. While younger generations are often considered to be digital natives, NSC's research suggests they often have fragmented knowledge.

As agencies look to upskill their workforces, the skills necessary to participate are changing – especially in the era of hybrid and remote workforces.

"When we think about what state policymakers can take from this report, I think the first thing is, 'How does this information help illuminate the data you already have that your state labor market information agencies are analyzing about your workforce?'"

The information in this report can be leveraged as states create their digital equity plans as required by the federal government. But in addition, agencies can use this in thinking about funding opportunities to invest in education and workforce development. – Government Technology/Tribune News Service

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