With 3,000 extra jobs predicted in the digital sector in the next six years*, and recent research from DMS Research & Consulting recognising the increasing demand for basic digital skills across all industries, businesses in Tees Valley are being urged to look ahead and seize the opportunities.
Not only this, but more than half of UK employers do not have the minimum level of digital skills, such as managing digital records and files**, with SMEs in Tees Valley experiencing similar skills gaps.
SMEs therefore need to prepare and upskill their current workforces to support growth and gain a competitive advantage.
To help businesses future-proof and prepare employees with essential digital skills, a range of short, free training courses are being offered through the Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme.
Sue Dawson, who oversees the delivery of the SSW programme in Tees Valley, discusses the opportunity: “It’s essential we tackle digital skills gaps now, so that businesses within Tees Valley remain competitive. This is especially the case with our SMEs, who are significantly behind larger organisations who have the resource for employees in dedicated digital roles, or who can afford a significant amount of training.
“It’s important SMEs recognise the dangers of not embracing digital skills. In the long term, they may begin to suffer internally, as systems become slower and inefficient. From an external perspective, consumers are expecting more from their interactions with any business, whether that’s customer service through a social media page, or finding more information via a website. It’s vital that businesses develop in line with these customer demands, in order to survive.
“Digital intensity of job roles across all sectors in Tees Valley is increasing, so it’s important to act now. What many SMEs don’t realise is that free training is available from the Skills Support for the Workforce programme, with courses that teach employees basic skills that can make a big difference.”
Three benefits of upskilling basic digital skills for SMEs:
- Efficiency: Systems such as Microsoft Word and Excel cross many employees’ paths in all sectors, from writing a letter to budgeting. It’s important that staff feel confident using them, so that what they are creating is made in an appropriate time frame and formatted correctly, ensuring the efficient running of a business. To combat this, there are courses available for both programmes, from Beginners level to Advanced.
- Sales: From providing functions for instant purchase, to encouraging users to get in touch, websites have become vital sales tools for many businesses. However, it can be difficult to know how to utilise your website to its full advantage with no digital experience. Courses such as Digital Promotion can teach employees how they can increase the quality and quantity of website traffic, which can boost sales.
- Awareness: Social media can help to raise brand awareness, but it’s important that content is relevant to followers – and potential followers – and that it reaches them at the right times for maximum impact and exposure. Those that enrol onto the Social Media for Business course will learn how to not only create engaging content, but when the best times to post are to reach audiences effectively.
DigitalCity supports tech start-ups, SME’s and local businesses in the Tees Valley region and is also encouraging more businesses to upskill their employees’ digital skills. Lynsey Robinson, Director of DigitalCity, commented: “We work to create sustainable digital and tech businesses in the Tees Valley through a variety of funded Programmes, workshops and consultancy projects. We also do a significant amount of digital transformation work with more traditional businesses to help them to prepare for the future.
“We’re delighted that the SSW project is being delivered on our doorstep. We would encourage the businesses accessing our support to look at how it can help them to build capacity as it’s crucial that the digital skills required by employers are met to ensure the economic success of the Tees Valley.”
The Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) programme has been developed to upskill employees in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the Tees Valley over the next two years and is co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) – an EU fund to help local areas stimulate economic development through skills and job creation.
For more information and to see if your business is eligible for fully-funded training please visit http://ssw.fundingunit.org.uk/areas/tees-valley/.
* Tees Valley Strategic Economic Plan, 2016 – 2026 – https://teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/TVCA207-SEP-Document-Full-WEB.pdf