Many Americans lack the digital skills needed to become effective members of the workforce in the 21st century, according to a report published Monday by a washington, D.C think tank.
One-third of U.S. workers lack digital skills, with 13 percent having no digital skills and 18 percent having limited digital skills, noted a report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a science and technology institute.
In essence, the ITIF reports, one in six working-age Americans cannot use email, web search, or other basic online tools.
“It started with the insufficient teaching of digital skills in the K-12 education system. Only a quarter of high schools in the United States have computer classes,” the report’s author, ITIF Director of Global Innovation Policy Stephen Ezell told izokr.com.
Darrell West, vice president of government research at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit pilot policy organization in Washington, D.C, added: “American students do not take STEM courses.
“They don’t like difficult science subjects and haven’t developed their math skills yet,” he told TechNewsWorld. That only leads to a country that lacks basic digital skills.”
The report notes that more california high school students take pottery classes than computer science.
Retraining in a short time
According to the report, the lack of digital skills of the workforce is particularly acute in some industries.
In the U.S. construction, transportation, and storage industries, half of workers don’t have or only limited digital skills, while that percentage is more than a third in the health and social work, manufacturing, hospitality, and retail and wholesale industries, It continues.
It added that the lack of digital skills in the manufacturing sector is of particular interest, especially given that jobs in the U.S. manufacturing industry increasingly require a digitally skilled facility, which is important for each worker to be competitive and productive, and for the broader U.S. manufacturing industries as Well.
“In the corporate world, there’s too little investment in the skills of the workforce,” Ezell said. That translates, as does the overinvestment in digital skills.”
He added: “If you look at private sector investment in workforce training, it’s been down 30 percent from the share of U.S. GDP over the past 20 years.
‘Serious investment’ in training
The same is true for the U.S. government.
“If you look at the programs offered by governments, the U.S. government invests about one-sixth of the OECD average in retraining the labor market among leading countries. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is an organization founded by 37 democracies with market-based economies, working together to develop policy standards aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth.
That could change in the future, however, if the Biden Administration’s Better Rebuild bill becomes law. The bill includes $20 billion earmarked for workforce and youth development initiatives. “Twenty billion is a serious and important investment and one of the strongest elements of action,” Ezell said.
“There’s also $55 billion designed to close the digital divide,” West added. “That will help those who are unable to take advantage of digital technology because of the lack of broadband.”
The report also notes that comparing digital skills with other countries shows that U.S. performance is mixed and increasingly declining.
In a 2012 OECD survey of 14 countries, the United States ranked fourth, behind countries such as New Zealand and Mexico.
Meanwhile, a 2021 study by Coursera, an online education provider, ranked the U.S. 29th out of 100 countries and noted that despite the rapid pace of digital transformation, the U.S. digital skills level is still inferior to many countries in Europe and Asia.
Compared to learners from 100 other countries in the study, Coursera found U.S. learners lag behind in some of the digital economy’s skills, including operating systems, cloud computing, and math, but “showed room for growth” in business skills such as communication, entrepreneurship, leadership and management.
“The United States is no worse than the developing world, but worse than the developed world,” West said.
“Many countries have invested more money in education and put more emphasis on worker retraining programs,” he continued. Those are areas where the U.S. must do a better job of maintaining competitiveness.”
Digital skills will become increasingly important in the 21st century as the digital economy contributes more and more to the GDP of all countries, the report explains. In 2016, the digital economy accounted for 22.5% of global GDP. By 2022, it is estimated that its contribution is at 60%.
Countries that want to compete successfully in the global digital economy must cultivate a workforce that possesses the digital skills needed so that industries, businesses and even individuals can thrive in the digital environment, The report says.
The challenge is broader.
However, workforce development is only part of the digital skills issue, Ezell commented.
“The availability of digital platforms in U.S. households is also an issue,” he noted. One study found that 23% of households do not own a desktop or laptop computer, and more than 7% of Americans do not use the Internet.”
He said: “The broad challenge of understanding digital is something we have to work hard to address.
He continued: “The availability of alternative forms of education – online universities, massively open online courses – gives us the ability to provide content for further training in skills.
He added: “Encouraging the use of more of those things would be very helpful.
In addition, just as the digital transformation pandemic is booming, it is also driving retraining efforts in organizations.
According to a report published in April by global management consulting firm McKinsey, skill building is more common than it was before the pandemic, with 69% of organizations now building more skills than they were before the Covid-19 crisis.
“There’s a lot of retraining going on as the world moves from the industrial era to the digital era,” West said. “Public and private agencies are trying to train human resources for the workforce needs of the 21st century. Over time, this problem will dissipate, but for now, it’s a big problem. ”
Deidre Diamond, founder and CEO of CyberSN, a cybersecurity recruitment and career resource recruitment firm in Framingham, Mass., said: “Digital skills and their accessibility are a very serious issue of diversity, fairness, inclusion and national security.
She added: “All human beings must have digital skills for individuals, organisations, governments and societies to thrive.