MORE than two fifths (43 per cent) of SMEs in the UK believe that they will need enhanced or increased digital capabilities in the next three years, in order to cope with the ever-changing business landscape.

Of that number, 77 per cent are worried about how they will successfully upskill, with many firms citing difficulties finding suitably skilled staff and the level of investment required as potential stumbling blocks.

 Believe that their firm will require enhanced/increased digital capability in next three yearsConcerned about how they will achieve this
AVERAGE UK43.077.1
North East England44.063.6
North West England52.088.4
Yorkshire & Humberside35.377.8
East Midlands44.081.8
West Midlands32.087.6
East Anglia39.255.0
Greater London58.879.9
South East England41.290.5
South West England44.081.8

CEO of Close Brothers Invoice Finance, David Thomson, said: “Our findings suggest that many SMEs do not feel adequately equipped for the future and that many are concerned that finding staff with the appropriate skills will be a challenge.”

David Thomson
David Thomson

The figures come from the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey that seeks to canvass the opinion of SME owners and managers across the UK on a range of issues that affect their business.

Mr Thomson continued: “A recent paper published by 02, The Future Digital Skills Needs of the UK Economy*, estimates that there is a requirement for almost three quarters of a million (745,000) additional workers with digital skills to meet the rising demand from employers and fuel the UK economy during the next three years.

“With this in mind, we need to explore how the UK can be prepared to compete in a digital global economy. Perhaps it is becoming necessary for businesses to look towards the younger generation to help address the growing skills gap.”

The survey also found that, of the firms who do not believe they will have any requirement for increased digital ability, 31 per cent of those do not consider digital skills as relevant to their business.

“SMEs across the board should consider the importance of digital skills in their workforce and the value these skills can bring. With £107 billion forecast to be spent online in 2014**, it is vital that SMEs are equipped for e-commerce and have the skills required to engage customers via their website or social media sites. It is clear that additional industry support is needed to deliver digital skills education in schools and also help young people into digital roles by offering more practical work experience.

“By working hand-in-hand with the government, UK firms can help to tackle this issue and ensure that we have the skills required to compete on a global level,” added Mr Thomson.