Kate Wood, Director of Culture at Chess, compared the issue of digital skills and people’s attitude towards it to climate change during a panel at Connected Britain

The key to fostering digital skills in the UK is to treat them as being as vital as reading, according to Kate Wood, Director of Culture at Chess.

Speaking on the final day of Connected Britain 2019, Wood said that digital skills should be viewed as skills for life and that everyone should have some level of understanding if the UK is to close the current digital skills gap.

“I think about digital skills as more like life skills,” she said. “When it becomes completely overwhelming for business is when we hear ‘there’s a digital skills gap, there’s a digital skills gap’ and it’s like how on earth are we going to tackle that? What are we going to do that makes a difference to that? But actually these are not skills for work these are skills for life and it’s a spectrum; some people will always be better at this type of thing than other people but if everyone in our society needs to have some level of understanding and ability.”

The confidence people feel in regard to digital skills is also something which Wood feels needs to be addressed.

“It is about looking at it in a different way and trying to break down the barriers,” she said. “A lot of it goes back to confidence and it’s about getting people to admit, understand and not feel worried about what they need to learn and do to be successful. We’ve got to start looking at it in a different way because if we don’t, we not we are not going to change it and everyone needs to be on board with that.”

When asked by panel moderator Tim Ensor, Commercial Director, AI, at Cambridge Consultants, whether there is enough recognition that digital is an area that people should be focusing on to enhance their skills, Wood compared the attitude towards the issue to how climate change is often viewed.

“You hear it and people think it doesn’t apply to them – a bit like climate change; ‘I know it’s an issue but I can’t do anything about it and it doesn’t impact me’. If we were honest about it, it wouldn’t be okay and it is not okay for me to sit here and say I’m not very good at reading. That wouldn’t be good to say and I wouldn’t feel positive about saying that about myself but people just say ‘I’m no good at technology, I don’t have digital skills, I don’t know how to use computers, I panic, I struggle’ – but actually day-to-day these are the tools that everyone is using so I think it is about really acknowledging that.”

Wood was joined on the panel – titled ‘Fostering Digital Skills in the UK Workforce’ – by Crissi Williams, CEO at ITP and Naleena Gururani, Chief People Officer at Hyperoptic.

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