Publications | 05 Dec, 2022

Working Paper 8: English approaches to digital skills policy – some reflections on current directions and developments

Ewart Keep


This paper provides a critical overview of the UK government’s strategy for addressing digital skill needs. It locates this issue against a backdrop of multiple policy challenges, including relative economic decline, flatlining productivity growth, the effects of Brexit and the issues thrown up by transition to Net Zero. One of the central themes is the question of governmental capacity and where digital skills sits within a hierarchy of policy ‘needs’ and priorities. The paper starts with a section that outlines the policy context, beginning with the broader economic and policy backdrop and then moving on to explore the pace and intensity of digitalisation. Attention is drawn to the absence of a policy focus on the workplace and the productive process that take place therein, which raises questions about the context for thinking about digital skills. The changing nature of the national ‘industrial strategy’, the digital strategy, and the work of the relevant government departments on estimating the scale of the skill needs created by digitalisation and current policy ambitions is surveyed. Next, the various digital skills policies and the institutional arrangements that have been put in place to deliver them are reviewed. The paper moves on to some of the challenges that digital skills policy faces, including policy coherence and coordination, funding skills delivery and the role of employers in this, the timeliness and quality of labour market information, and the responsiveness of the education and training (E&T) system to emerging demands. The paper concludes with some thoughts on how policy is developing and some lessons that other countries might take from the UK’s efforts.

Working Paper 8 by Ewart Keep. Download full working paper here

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