News and features

Exploring the digital skills gap within education and industry

Professor Alan Woodward connects to UK Digital Skills steering group.

Professor Alan Woodward, visiting academic within Surrey’s Department of Computing, is a member of the independent UK Digital Skills taskforce. UK Digital Skills ask start-ups, big businesses, students, teachers and parents questions from, ‘How do schools encourage digital talent?’, ‘What digital skills are companies looking for in candidates?’ through to ‘How excited are students about careers in technology?’

The group, chaired by technology reporter Maggie Philbin, has now produced a major report on how the UK should be assisting everyone to acquire digital competency.

In it, the taskforce explains that digital skills play an integral and crucial role within all businesses, and their findings emphasise the need to encourage and nurture the workforces’ digital ability from an early age, so that the UK can compete and interact with a global market.

“There were some surprising results, especially about how young people perceived the IT industry,” said Professor Woodward. “Many felt that you’d be tied to a screen all day doing mundane work. The idea that computing was part of nearly every job you can think of hadn’t really occurred. It was also interesting that the need to help people with digital skills is not limited to the young: those at a later stage in their careers can really benefit from such support too.”

Suggestions on how to change the current skills policy in the UK include setting up a ‘personal skills’ account, “linked to an entitlement to career reviews to help people decide what development will work for them”, and the integration of digital training into everyday environments. The report concluded with the recommendation that “the Government should commission a major review of the provision of lifelong learning for digital skills across the UK”.

Professor Woodward has spent time as a senior manager and director for various IT businesses, and has been elected to the British Computer Society, Institute of Physics, Royal Statistical Society as well as the Industrial Advisory Board. He is now working within Surrey’s Department of Computing.


Discover Surrey’s Computing programmes and read about student experiences of the subject.

Related news and features