How do you measure digital skills? How do you work out whether a candidate for a job has the skills and competences that they will need to do the work? Letting people self-assess their skills can seem like a simple solution, but it brings a big risk that they will misjudge their abilities.
ECDL Foundation’s new edition of the ‘Perception & Reality’ report brings together the results of research into self-perception of digital skills, and the reality, measured with a practical test. The new report includes findings from studies conducted in Singapore and India, reinforcing the original findings from five European countries.
ECDL National Operators in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Switzerland, as well as ICDL Asia in Singapore and India, have carried out research into digital literacy levels in their countries.
A common finding across all the studies, which asked participants to rate their own skills, then used practical tests to find out their real skill levels, was that people routinely overestimate their abilities. In the study conducted by OCG in Austria, 94% of participants described their skills as “average” to “very good”, but only 39% of them achieved a corresponding test result. In Singapore, 88.5% of participants rated their general digital skills as ‘fair’ to ‘excellent’, but only 55% achieved that level.
So how do we measure digital skills accurately? One interesting finding of the study in Switzerland was that holders of a computer skills certificate (ECDL) did significantly better than average. Clearly, structured training that leads to recognised certification is a key way to close these digital skills gaps.
We need efforts at all political levels, from the EU’s new skills strategy, that is expected shortly, to national and local plans for education and training. The danger of an unskilled workforce is that we will be quickly overtaken by the rest of the world. Is that a risk worth taking?