Google and Rishi Sunak launch nationwide digital skills drive to help small businesses

Google and Rishi Sunak launch nationwide digital skills drive and support to help small businesses adapt 

New research from Google reveals that 60% of small business owners agree that they are operating in a ‘new normal’ post-pandemic, with customer and employee expectations radically altered.

Small businesses were forced to adapt their businesses during the pandemic and are now adapting once more for the new normal.

Whilst there has been much focus on return-to-office for big businesses post-pandemic, 60% of small and medium sized business leaders believe they need more support to help adapt to the permanent changes brought about by the pandemic.

In particular, despite nearly two thirds stating that digital skills and tools are now more important than pre-pandemic, a majority (59%) find that it’s harder now to recruit staff with certain digital skills. Small business leaders are eager for the next phase of digital skills which will support them: almost three quarters (72%) of businesses said they would be interested in government or third party funded digital skills training, and in incentives for providing training, as they look to grow in a hybrid world. But many of them don’t know where to get help.

At an event in Ipswich today, Google and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are launching a nationwide digital skills drive to help small businesses adapt to this ‘new normal’ post-pandemic. Google’s Digital Garage digital skills training programme will visit over 30 locations this year, including Leeds, Skegness and Salisbury. Expert coaches will deliver in-person digital skills training to help thousands more people and small businesses to grow their businesses, careers and skills, supporting levelling up across the UK. Entrepreneur and celebrity chef, Levi Roots, is also attending the launch event in Ipswich and providing mentoring and advice to local businesses.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “Small businesses are at the heart of our economy – creating jobs and prosperity across the UK. It’s been fantastic to meet so many SMEs in Suffolk today and to see Google’s digital workshop in action which is giving them the tools to grow.

“We’re backing SMEs by cutting employment taxes and business rates, and incentivising firms to train and invest more so they can thrive. Because this will support jobs and help the economy to recover and grow.”

Google is also working with the Federation of Small Businesses to offer up to 500 Google Career Certificate scholarships – worth up to £87,000 – to each small business owner looking to further develop the tech talent needed to reach their full potential. With UK businesses facing a significant tech skills gap, Google’s Career Certificates offer flexible online training in entry-level digital skills in high-demand areas such as project management, IT support, data analytics, UX design and digital marketing & e-commerce with high numbers of vacancies, and are accessible on Coursera. Small business owners can use Google Career Certificates, which are created by senior Googlers alongside external experts, to upskill their workforce for free as they look to grow their businesses in a post-pandemic world.

Managing Director for Google UK and Ireland, Ronan Harris, said: “Every business is navigating the new normal, including Google. The UK’s growing digital economy has created opportunities for record numbers of British businesses to thrive, and we’re committed to helping them make the most of that opportunity as they adapt to a hybrid world. That’s why we’re launching the next phase of our in-person digital skills training and are offering Google Career Certificates scholarships to help small businesses to develop the high impact tech skills needed to maximise their earning potential and level up.”

National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, Martin McTague, said: “Despite increasing adoption of digital technology and new ways of working, the overall digital capability of small firms still requires improvement. We’ve always said that both Government and industry have a part to play in upskilling digital in small businesses and this initiative from Google and the Government is a really positive step.”

Entrepreneur and celebrity chef, Levi Roots, added: “I launched Reggae Reggae sauce from the kitchen table 16 years ago with no tech skills or experience – just a great idea. Now, thanks to digital, I sell my products in supermarkets everywhere!  Today’s entrepreneurs have a huge opportunity to go global but, like me, they need to know how to get the tech skills they need to make their businesses a success. That’s why I’m working with Google to share the recipe for scaling a business in our new hybrid world.”

The partnership supports the UK Government’s 2030 ambition for 200,000 people annually to complete high quality-skills training, as part of its levelling-up agenda. It also builds on Google’s years of experience in training 800,000 people in the UK in digital skills at 500+ locations through its Digital Training programme, and runs alongside its extensive online skills training programmes. People who have gone on to grow their careers or businesses have included the blind artist Google trained in Portsmouth to run his own business, Seeing without Seeing, who is now exhibiting at the Royal Academy; fishmonger Fresh Fish Daily in Edinburgh who survived the pandemic by selling online for the first time; and Ousman a self-taught Python coder that used Google’s Career Certificates to prove his expertise and secure a job as an IT Support technician.