Plans have been unveiled to establish a new university in the city of Milton Keynes that will focus on digital skills. The first undergraduate cohort is expected in 2023 and around 5,000 students will study for qualifications in areas such as digital, cyber, autonomy, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
It is being developed in partnership with business and plenty of major players are supporting the project. It was announced this week that the exclusively postgraduate Cranfield University has been chosen as the lead higher education provider and other partners include Grant Thornton, MK College, Microsoft and Indian IT and technology solutions provider, Tech Mahindra.
The aim is to design new educational models which will be responsive to the needs of the city’s businesses and its people and Ian Fordham, Microsoft UK director of education, reckons the MK:U vision closely aligns with the tech giant’s mission to empower “every person and every organisation on the planet” to achieve more. “We are confident that this new institution will help ensure students develop the skills they need to thrive in a digital economy.”
It is great to see the UK planning to deliver a ground-up and robust solution for what is potentially one of the biggest skills gaps organisations have ever faced. It should also confirm in leaders’ minds everywhere that digital really is the future and even if technologies such as AI and robotics don’t affect their organisation now, they will more than likely play a part in the future.
According to a report by Capgemini and LinkedIn, the digital skills gap is widening though, and worryingly, budgets for training digital talent have remained flat or decreased in more than half (52 per cent) of organisations. Meanwhile, half of organisations said they “keep talking” about the digital talent gap but are not doing much to bridge it. The Digital Talent Gap – Are Companies Doing Enough? also found that half of employees are investing their own money and additional time beyond office hours to develop digital skills on their own.
Where there is training being provided, more than half of today’s digital talent say training programmes aren’t hugely effective and close to half (45 per cent) describe their organisation’s programmes as “useless and boring”. It is laudable that some employees are investing in their own digital future but a failure on the part of senior leadership, especially given the research also found more than half of organisations (54 per cent) felt the digital talent gap is hampering their digital transformation programmes and that their organisation has lost competitive advantage because of this.
None of it makes sense given the opportunities digital is likely to bring. Indeed, the 11th edition of Capgemini’s flagship publication, the Digital Transformation Review: Artificial Intelligence Decoded, highlights how artificial intelligence will be the most debated, invested in and disruptive business technology trend over the coming years. Lanny Cohen, Capgemini’s chief innovation officer, urges organisations to get past the hype and “understand how to apply this innovation to become a truly intelligent enterprise”. The review tackles the AI talent gap as well as AI’s impact on jobs and the characteristics of AI leaders.
While “we are all technology companies now” is fast becoming an everyday expression, it sends out one of the clearest message yet to leaders that they must invest in digital skills for the future. After all, you wouldn’t head up a pharmaceutical company and not invest in computational biology and genomics or clinical research know-how would you?