How To Get On Top Of Your Digital Skills

We all need to level up our digital skills – and fast - as everything tech is now an integral part of our lives and having digital fluency is the new currency.

Why are digital skills important?

Computer and technology skills have, in the past, been a fairly niche area- the kind of abilities only those who have logic-oriented “brains” can master. And it is the kind of area which frightens those creatives amongst us. This was partly true for Millennials, maybe even for Gen Z, but for the younger generation (labelled Gen Alpha) it’s imperative that everyone has at least a basic level of digital literacy. Writing in and understanding basic coding languages such as Javascript, Java, C++ and Python is a must, as is being able to build a simple website or an app.

The English education system has always been rooted around the Humanities: subjects like Classics, English, Philosophy and History. Top universities like Oxford specialise in these subjects and are in many ways falling behind on more technology-focused courses; people who read any of the STEM subjects are still in the minority.

But ‘digital literacy’ doesn’t just mean doing technology-focused subjects at school like a Computer Science A-Level, an IT GCSE, or even pastime courses on data-learning - although these would be incredibly useful later on in life. It’s about harnessing the skills to use technology in every-day life.

And we don’t really have a choice. We have to ‘skill up’. The digital landscape has filtered into absolutely everything we do; our social lives with social media; our school and work lives with Microsoft apps like Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and then the many apps we use every day for revising, note-taking, shopping, paying and (not to forget) ordering food. We are clearly comfortable as digital consumers; the next step is ‘just’ to understand and to be part of the reverse side of that equation too.

Almost every single job nowadays requires a good level of digital skills- even in traditional careers like the creative industries, the civil service, education, medicine or finance. Then, of course, there are the kind of jobs which are being created entirely to support the growing dominance of Artificial Intelligence, such as Quantum Computing, Robotics, Computer Engineering, Biotech or Data Analytics.

So, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of how.

Before diving into coding, more basic digital skills are often overlooked. Simple skills like being able to touch type (this will save you a huge amount of time with all that essay writing), to making graphs and charts in Excel, are the first to get on top off. Secondly, the ability to design and run a website is highly useful, and then, of course, there is necessity of coding.

Maybe your school runs courses or workshops to help you become a pro and get you ready for that summer work experience. But if not, there are some very useful websites and short courses (of which quite a few are free) you can do to improve your digital skills. Please see a few suggestions below:

  1. Qwerty Kids ( Qwerty Kids runs touch typing courses for anyone aged 7 to 17 years old, both remotely and in person. They also do them in various formats to suit your schedule, either after school or as a full week, total, immersion. You may even collect some points for your Duke of Edinburgh award by doing a course here.
  2. Firetech ( Firetech runs a wide variety of courses to suit your needs. Their off- and on-line offering varies from Machine Learning for AI, straightforward coding, game development and, excitingly, a lot of courses focusing on creative digital skills such digital photography and digital music production, as well as creating and editing digital content for social media. Prices are very reasonable.
  3. Linkedin Learning is one of the biggest e-learning platforms around today. Although many of you might not think about using LinkedIn (yet), it is actually a treasure trove of expert-led courses such as understanding social media, marketing tools and online content creation and is also the place to get well-informed career advice with digital skills in mind. LinkedIn is also great at tailoring courses and advice to your specific needs and chosen career aspirations. It’s definitely worth signing up to this one.
  4. Future Learn is worth a visit too. It offers both short and longer courses and degrees on digital skills. In their IT and Computer Science section you will a useful set of courses helping you navigate what matters in the digital world. Courses on average teach 2 hours a week (for a 2 to 3 week period) and can easily fit into anyone’s schedule, no matter how busy.
  5. Microsoft Learn offers more specialised help in understanding their applications like Word, PowerPoint and Excel - all of which are fundamental and essential skills to know for university and later careers (imagine doing a project and not knowing how to use Excel to make graphs…!)

These are just a few; there are a host of other online toolkits ready and waiting to help you navigate the digital world. Because, whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay, and it’s only going to get more present in our lives.

So, jump on the bandwagon today and give yourself the best possible chance of thriving in the digital era. You will be spoilt for choice.

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