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Worry grows over digital skills shortage

Thursday, August 21 10:26:05

There's growing concern over Ireland's digital skills shortage with over half (54pc) of Irish SMEs saying they'll need enhanced or increased digital capabilities in the next three years to cope with the ever-changing business landscape.

Of that number, 69pc are worried about how they will successfully upskill, with many firms citing difficulties finding suitably skilled staff and the level of investment required as potential stumbling blocks.

The figures come from the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey that seeks to canvass the opinion of SME owners and managers across Ireland and the UK on a range of issues that affect their business.

Harry Parkinson, Managing Director of Close Brothers Commercial Finance said: "Our findings suggest that many Irish SMEs do not feel adequately equipped for the future and that many are concerned that finding staff with the appropriate skills will be a challenge."

"A recent study published by the European Commission, the Digital Skills Indicator, found that 38pc of the Irish workforce have little or no digital skills and with this in mind, we need to explore how Ireland can be prepared to compete in a digital global economy. Perhaps it is becoming necessary for businesses to look towards the younger generation to help address the growing skills gap."

The survey also found that, of the Irish firms who do not believe they will have any requirement for increased digital ability, half do not consider digital skills as relevant to their business.

"SMEs across the board should consider the importance of digital skills in their workforce and the value these skills can bring. With E5.5 billion forecast to be spent online in Ireland during 2014, it is vital that businesses are equipped for e-commerce and have the skills required to engage customers via their website or social media sites. It is clear that additional industry support is needed to deliver digital skills education in schools and also help young people into digital roles by offering more practical work experience," said Mr Parkinson.

"By working hand-in-hand with the government, firms in Ireland can help to tackle this issue and ensure that we have the skills required to compete on a global level," he added.

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