2.3 million digital workers required by 2020 to power the UK’s digital economy

Britain will need 2.287 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to satisfy the UK’s digital potential, according to fresh research published by O2 today. Alarmingly the research also predicts that almost half of new digital jobs created in the next five years will be in London and the South East. In response, O2 has launched an ambitious Digital Communities pilot in St. Helens to inspire people and businesses outside of the nation’s capital to make the most of the digital opportunity.

The research, commissioned by O2 and conducted by Development Economics revealed that an additional 766,000 digital jobs are to be created between now and 2020, despite the labour market largely levelling out following the post-recession uplift. This figure demonstrates that the economy is nowhere near digital maturity, and further action must be taken if the UK is to capitalise on the growth opportunity in the digital economy.

Significantly, the research predicts that the benefits of the digital economy will still be felt predominantly in London and the South East. Of the 766,000 jobs being created almost half will be based in the region, while just eight per cent will be created in the North West and East of England – the two areas with the next highest level of digital job creation.

Speaking at the launch of the O2 and St Helens Digital Communities pilot, O2 Business Director, Ben Dowd said: “It’s promising to see that so many jobs will be required to fulfil the UK’s digital potential. But we can’t get complacent – these figures highlight that the economy is nowhere near digital maturity and worryingly the opportunities that are being created, are predominantly in the South.

“We’re committed to playing our part – which is why we’ve launched an ambitious partnership with St Helens Council to show other communities what’s possible when they put connectivity at their heart. We’re helping analogue businesses go digital; matching local companies with the digital talent on their doorstep, and supporting the Council to offer more digital services, to create a blueprint for other communities up and down the country. We’re working towards a more Digital Britain, where the entire nation can feel the benefits of the UK’s growing digital economy and we’re starting in St Helens.”

The Digital Communities Pilot in St. Helens is designed to show how connectivity can help communities across the country to prosper whether by harnessing young digital talent, boosting entrepreneurship, enabling public sector organisations to drive efficiencies and better engage local people.

Activities within the pilot include:
Digital Makeovers for businesses: Over the three month period, giving at least ten analogue businesses in the local area free consultations and the latest technology to help them grow
A Digital Skills Exchange: Matching local businesses with the young digital talent on their doorstep – helping businesses to fulfil their skills needs while offering local young people the chance to put their digital skills into practice and gain valuable workplace experience
O2 Think Big grant giveaway: Offering 60 grants (half funded by the local Chamber of Commerce) to young people in St Helens, which provide funding and mentoring to young entrepreneurs from the area to help kick-start turning their digital ideas into reality
Community Hackathon: Helping young people in the St Helens community to find digital solutions to existing community challenges – anything from skills and employment to helping the environment – through the creation of apps
Over 60 workshops in the O2 digital hub: Including everything from digital careers clinics to social media surgeries for SMBs, coding clubs and online safety sessions for parents.

To ensure the results of the pilot can be effectively measured, O2 is tracking improvement around engagement and connectivity in the St Helens community through its Digital High Street Index, created in conjunction with the Department of Communities and Local Government in March 2015. It is also undertaking rigorous polling of both businesses and citizens in the local area to deliver a robust recommendation to government at the end of the three month pilot on the benefits of connectivity to a community.

St Helens Council Leader Barrie Grunewald said: “Raising our digital profile will not only boost our commercial and employment prospects, but help to connect our communities and deal with issues like social isolation.

“This is a tremendously exciting project that will hopefully whet the appetite for greater involvement with technology among our young people, older people, businesses, agencies and other institutions. There are plenty of opportunities and I would urge everyone to embrace them.”

The research, is an update on the landmark 2013 report which highlighted that an additional 750,000 jobs for digitally skilled workers would be created by 2017. Due to the growth of the British economy since 2013, of which digital is playing a key role in driving, this figure has now been reforecast to 1.1 million additional digital jobs by 2017.