Following on from the success of Essex Business School's Digital Skills programme, we caught up with Kirsty Makepeace, Careers Advisor at the University of Essex, who told us about the importance of Digital Skills in the jobs market and graduate careers in a post-pandemic world.

The post-pandemic work place

One of the main noticeable shifts in the world of employment because of the global COVID pandemic is the migration to online working. Now, more than ever, workplaces are moving out of offices and into a virtual landscape and even with the easing of lockdowns not every position has moved back to an in person setting.

A large portion of the workforce is now based on home and other remote locations to conduct business.

This has created an array of opportunities for employees and employers ranging from removing the daily commute, creating flexibility to live in any location and creating new approaches to work/life balance.  

This being said, it isn’t all good news for prospective employees, although the employment landscape has broadened in the types and locations of positions an individual can apply for it has also highlighted a digital skills gap in the UK labour market. A recent government report recently revealed that around 82% of employers list digital skills as a requirement when posting a position and that not all employees are meeting these demands.  

Digital skills in demand

Now more than ever employees must be able to demonstrate their adaptability and skill with digital platforms and technologies. Digital skills in the past were normally specific to the technology industries and sectors but this demand has grown to be a universal need across all sectors.

The expectations of employers in relation to recruitment and digital skills knowledge have exponentially grown. In the past being proficient on platforms like Excel and PowerPoint were enough to get you ahead of the competition for most entry level graduate roles. This is no longer enough, these skills in themselves have gone from desirable to essential along with other digital skills that are more role and sector specific.

Roles requesting programme specific knowledge like coding languages, database management and creative design skills such as using Adobe products have become common place. Therefore, graduates looking to enter the labour market in any sector must now address the digital skills gaps on their resumes by upskilling to improve their employment prospects.

As a result, it is now advisable that students begin to address the digital skills gaps in their knowledge base before graduating.

How upskill to address the graduate skills gap

Many students use platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera and Future Learn to acquaint themselves with the skills that may meet the requirements of the positions they wish to apply for in the future.

It is also important to explore the types of digital skills that may be requested of them by window shopping for job advertisements online for the types of positions they would wish to apply to in the future to see what skills are currently deemed essential for those types of roles. This will give students a foundational understanding of the types of programs, platforms, and coding languages etc that they will need to become familiar with.

However, the labour market and needs of employers are ever shifting and in today’s fasting moving digital world these needs change quickly. Therefore, it is essential that students become reflexive and responsive by regularly participating in upskilling activities to evolve and advance the skills on their resume to meet the labour markets demands.

Showcasing skills

Another point to take into consideration when discussing digital skills in employment is how potential employees successfully showcase these skills by presenting them on a resume in a way that will catch recruiters’ attention.

There is no point in upskilling if these skills aren’t being shown to employers in a clear and attention-grabbing format. Tailoring a CV for every role is essential for showcasing digital skills in relation to the role.

At the University of Essex we provide all students and alumni with careers support for life, this includes free professional CV support appointments and application support appointments that can be booked via CareerHub. Using resources like this can greatly improve employment prospects and ensure that digital skills are being showcased in a way that is attractive to employers.

Whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate or alumni it is never too late to address the digital skills needs of your resume to give you an advantage when job hunting.

If you are concerned about identifying your employability skills or need more assistance in planning your career, it is always advisable to book a careers advice appointment (this can be done via CareerHub).

In an ever-evolving labour market it is important now more than ever that job hunters are adapting their skills to get ahead of the competition.