Digital Skills Gap

Crunched by the Numbers: The Digital Skills Gap in the Workforce


Crunched by the Numbers: The Digital Skills Gap in the Workforce

In the middle-skill job market, the world is increasingly divided between the jobs that demand digital skills and the ones that don’t—and the ones that don’t are falling behind.

Much of the debate over technology in the workforce has focused on sophisticated skills, such as writing code. But the more significant impact on the middle-skill job market is in the humbler world of everyday software: spreadsheets and word processing, programs for medical billing and running computerized drill presses. To a large extent, a job seeker without the ability to use this software won’t even get in the door.

Middle-skill jobs, roughly defined as those that require more than a high school education but less than a bachelor’s degree, comprise 39% of U.S. employment. These jobs matter because they have long sustained a middle-class lifestyle for millions of Americans, and because they’re increasingly pressured by changes to the economy. Two-thirds of Americans don’t have a college degree, and these jobs represent important career opportunities for them.

A study of job postings by Burning Glass Technologies found that middle-skill jobs that require digital skills are outpacing those that do not in a wide range of ways:

  • Nearly eight in 10 middle-skill jobs require digital skills. Spreadsheet and word processing proficiencies have become a baseline requirement for the majority of middle-skill opportunities (78%).
  • Digitally intensive middle-skill occupations are growing faster than other middle-skill jobs. Digitally intensive jobs have grown 2.5 times more rapidly than middle-skill jobs that do not require spreadsheets, word processing, or other digital skills (between 2003 and 2013, 4.7% growth for digitally intensive jobs compared to 1.9% growth for other positions).
  • Digitally intensive middle-skill jobs pay more than middle-skill jobs that do not require a digital component. Digitally intensive middle-skill occupations offer 18% higher wages on average: $23.76 per hour compared to $20.14 per hour for all other middle-skill jobs.

In fact, as the nation has recovered from the Great Recession, growth for digitally intensive middle-skill jobs has been equivalent to the growth of high-skill positions over the same period (4.8% for digital middle-skills and 4.7% for high-skill positions from 2010 through 2013). Since they are growing more rapidly and pay more than other middle-skill jobs, these jobs offer a promising career path for Americans who lack a bachelor’s degree.

By contrast, middle-skill jobs that are not digitally intensive have had the slowest growth of any category, behind even low-skill positions (1.9% for non-digital middle-skill jobs between 2004 and 2013, compared to 2.9% for low-skill jobs). These positions, primarily in transportation, construction, and installation/repair, lag in pay, growth, and opportunity.

This research was funded by Capital One, which announced a $150 million Future Edge initiative to fund community grants and initiatives over the next five years to help empower more Americans to succeed in an ever-changing digitally-driven economy.Find out more about Future Edge.

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