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OU says learning is the key to tackling SME skills gap

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Only 50% of Scottish business leaders say they plan to address gaps in skills in the next 12 months, a survey has found.

The Open University and Be the Business study found that while business leaders in Scotland value training and technology, time and money barriers stand in the way of upskilling.

Their joint report – Skills for Success: Supporting Business Leaders with Digital Adoption – suggests 77% of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)  bosses do not have the skills required to successfully implement new technology into their businesses.

Value not well understood

And the value of technology isn’t clear to all Scottish business leaders, with only a minority seeing it as having a positive impact on increasing efficiency (39%), profit margin (24%) and revenue (37%, against a UK average of 31%).

But rapid technology adoption over the past 15 months of the pandemic shows there is an opportunity for SMEs to maintain the uptake of technology and digital skills, the report says.

Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of collaboration and e-commerce software, for example, in more than half (54%) of UK SMEs.

A majority of firms sticking by new technology

Of the business leaders who adopted new technology or accelerated its use due to Covid-19, at least 85% plan to continue using it at the same level once restrictions are fully lifted.

The study found that even without dedicated resource, many SMEs have shown themselves to be flexible and resilient around digital skills and training, with 65% of Scottish business owners expressing an interest in some form of learning and development over the coming year.

Report ‘shines a light’ on challenges

Susan Stewart, director for the Open University in Scotland, said:  “Small and medium-sized businesses are vitally important to Scotland’s urban and rural economies and this report shines a light on some of the challenges they face in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

“With our flexible approach to lifelong learning, Open University Scotland is well-placed to help Scotland’s SMEs address many of the digital skills gaps identified in this report.”

Click here to read the whole report.

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