In the 20+ years I have worked in HR, I have been asked about the skills needed for a successful entry into the job market more times than I can count. And for the most part the message has been the same, from the importance of communication skills to emotional intelligence, collaboration, interpersonal skills, and others.
But recently that script has been changing. The Digital Age has brought with it a need for a new set of competences, Digital Competences, and we need to prioritize developing those skills if we are to thrive in today’s digital landscape.
Let us first define Digital Competences; they are the knowledge and skills that enable an individual to “make, represent and share meaning in different modes and formats; to create, collaborate and communicate effectively and to understand how and when digital technologies can best be used to support these processes” (Hague and Payton (2010))[i]
Before I delve deeper into Digital Competences, I would like to stress that those skills are not just essential for jobs in the ICT sector, those skills are critical for success for anyone, anywhere regardless of profession, industry or even experience level.
Now for the important part. Below is a set of Digital Competences that we must all look to develop and cultivate in ourselves and in those around us.[ii]
1. ICT Proficiency: A core element to Digital Literacy, ICT Proficiency involves the functional skills needed to use devices, applications and services as well as the use of digital tools to carry out tasks effectively, productively and with attention to quality.
2. Information, Data and Media Literacies: The abundance of digital information and content available at our fingertips today is a privilege anyone that has never had to resort to print media for research will never truly appreciate.
But like everything else; we need the right approach and attitude. Whether it is articulating our information needs or creating and updating our personal search strategies, conducting our searches in digital environments or analyzing and presenting information and data using the multitude of digital media available to us we need to do it all responsibly. This means being able to evaluate authenticity and relevance, knowing how to organize and share information with a care for copyright and referencing, and doing it all ethically and securely.
3. Digital Creation, Problem Solving and Innovation: Someone, somewhere must create or generate all the information and data we have access to. This competence mainly addresses the skills needed to create and edit this content in different formats and finding solutions to problems using digital tools, resources and online services. This requires an understanding of digital research methods, digital production processes and innovation in digital settings.
4. Digital Communication, Collaboration and Participation: Just as with communicating and collaborating in person, doing so in digital environments requires the ability to clearly express oneself, maintain respect and build trust, maybe even more so than with traditional communication.
However, digital communication brings with it the need for a wider spectrum of knowledge and skills. A knowledge and understanding of the many different digital media and spaces out there and their features and norms, the good and the bad, and how they work to influence social behaviour is critical. Also, the ability to collaborate with others in digital spaces and to facilitate and build digital networks are now becoming essential skills if one wants to reap the rewards of available digital platforms and to create a strong and positive digital identity.
5. Digital Learning and Development: The learning landscape has been shifting towards digital for years with blended learning become more and more prevalent in recent years. But this disruption was rapidly accelerated with the onset of COVID-19 and all the digital learning opportunities and challenges it brought to light. There is no doubt that virtual learning is here to stay and if you do not want to be left behind then you better get familiar with the digital learning landscape, and fast. Whether your goal is to participate in, and benefit from, digital learning opportunities or you want to support and develop others in digital settings, developing your understanding of digital learning approaches, tools and resources is a must.
6. Digital Identity and Well-Being: I cannot stress enough the importance of having a solid understanding of the risks and benefits involved in digital participation and the ability to responsibly and safely develop and project a positive digital identity and reputation; especially to the younger generation of students and young professionals. Trust me your future self will thank you for taking this advice seriously.
For those of you who have truly embraced technology and have organically developed your digital literacy skills over time much of this may seem intuitive and sound like common sense. But for the rest of you, do not let this intimidate you. Digital Literacy is not about becoming a tech guru, it is meant to enable and empower you and of course to keep you safe as you go about your everyday life in a word that is highly connected and where digital technologies are constantly changing the way we do things.
[ii] JISC Digital Capability Framework - https://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6611/1/JFL0066F_DIGIGAP_MOD_IND_FRAME.PDF last visited 15/06/2021
[iii] Europass Digital Competency Self-Assessment Grid - https://www.reactivatejob.eu/multimedia/uploads/documents/DigitalCompetences-en.pdf