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My Conservative Manifesto: Equip young people with the skills to succeed in a digital world

Digital skills for young people

3 min read

Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham and former leadership contender, sets out his key priority for the next Conservative Party manifesto

When I stood to be leader of the Conservative Party earlier this year, I did so on a platform of aspirational conservatism.

As I look at how future generations can succeed in an increasingly interconnected world, it is vital that young people have the right skillset to compete.

In an increasingly digital economy, it is crucial we give all our young people technical skills that will allow them to participate and thrive.

By 2030, two-thirds of the UK workforce could be lacking in basic digital skills

The government has already taken major steps towards this with the introduction of computing in schools up to Key Stage 3. However, much remains to be done as uptake has been in decline over the past five years and a worrying gender gap has opened up, with only 21.4 per cent of GCSE computing entries being women and girls.

The problem is an urgent one: research by McKinsey & Company shows that by 2030, two-thirds of the United Kingdom workforce could be lacking in basic digital skills, severely damaging UK business competitiveness.

In today’s interconnected world, younger generations seek the same things: job opportunities, prosperity and happiness. If they are to be competitive in seeking these, they must have the right skills. One aspect of this could be widening access to foreign languages will help to achieve this, while at the same time promoting Global Britain.

Every child in this country should learn at least one foreign language, but unfortunately we are still far from reaching that ambition. Only 32 per cent of young people in the UK say they can read and write in more than one language, compared with 91 per cent in Germany and 80 per cent across the European Union.

The situation is not improving: the number of pupils learning a second language diminishes year-on-year. This not only threatens UK companies’ competitiveness abroad but limits our soft power on the international stage. We need to consider whether we introduce language education at an earlier age.

My final policy proposal is the need to equip students with stronger critical thinking skills. We can see the dangers of disinformation and misinformation when intentionally spread, as with misleading claims about the Covid-19 vaccine and as is happening now with Russian disinformation over their invasion of Ukraine.

Young people, in particular, gather their news from social media and with limited oversight, misinformation can easily spread. It is therefore vital that young people are equipped to spot false information online.

Countering the spread of dangerous disinformation and misinformation is one of the next big challenges we face to protect against social disorder, which could also undermine our democratic institutions. It is vital that we teach these skills early in schools so that young people can help stop the spread.


Rehman Chishti is Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham

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