The new era of hybrid hopefuls

SMEs need deeper digital skills to navigate the post-pandemic ‘new normal’. Google and the Federation of Small Businesses have teamed up to help local firms bridge the tech talent gap.

A national digital skills drive has been launched in Ipswich to help small businesses adapt to this whole new way of working.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was in town to back the digital skills training programme, organised by Google’s Digital Garage.

He was accompanied by Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, who said: “Google is working with the Federation of Small Businesses to offer up to 500 Google Career Certificate scholarships – worth up to £87,000 to each business – to small business owners looking to further develop the tech talent needed to reach their full potential.

“With UK businesses facing a significant tech skills gap, Google’s Career Certificates offer flexible online training in entry-level digital skills in high-demand areas such as project management, IT support, data analytics, UX design and digital marketing and e-commerce with high numbers of vacancies, and are accessible on Coursera.”

Sixty per cent of small business owners believe that customer and employee expectations have radically changed since the pandemic, according to new research. It means that small businesses who were forced to adapt in Covid times are now having to adapt once more.

But, while there has been much focus on return-to-office for big businesses, 60% of SMEs believe they need much more support.

Despite nearly two-thirds (63%) of SMEs stating that digital skills and tools are now more important than pre-pandemic, a majority (59%) find that it’s harder now to recruit staff with certain digital skills and don’t know where to get help.

Speaking at the launch, the Chancellor said: “Small businesses are at the heart of our economy – creating jobs and prosperity across the UK.

“We’re backing SMEs by cutting employment taxes and business rates, and incentivising firms to train and invest more so they can thrive. Because this will support jobs and help the economy to recover and grow.”

Entrepreneur and celebrity chef, Levi Roots was also at the event to share his advice and experience with the local business community. He said: “I launched Reggae Reggae sauce from the kitchen table 16 years ago with no tech skills or experience – just a great idea. Now, thanks to digital, I sell my products in supermarkets everywhere! Today’s entrepreneurs have a huge opportunity to go global but, like me, they need to know how to get the tech skills they need to make their businesses a success.”


Google research on SMEs found:

41% of respondents believe the way their business attracts customers has permanently changed

27% say customer service expectations are higher

79% say that digital skills are important or essential to their business

Only 4% feel they’re meeting their full potential on digital strategy, and only (3%) feel this for online sales and upskilling staff.

Over half agree that employee expectations around remote and flexible working have permanently changed – and 50% believe that offering hybrid or remote working is necessary to help them retain employees.

More than three-quarters were unaware of government support (76%) or third party support (78%) to help them adopt digital technologies.

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