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FSB: Lack of Cyber-Skills Holding Back Small Business

Over a fifth of UK small business owners believe a lack of cybersecurity skills is preventing them from becoming more digitally oriented, according to a new study from a leading UK business group.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) posed questions on skills and training to over 1000 small businesses earlier this year to compile its latest report, Learning the Ropes.

The biggest barrier to digital growth is a basic lack of IT skills, cited by 22%, but this was followed shortly behind by a dearth of in-house security skills (21%).

Half (50%) of small businesses claimed that technical skills are the most important for driving future business growth.

Business owners are right to be concerned: the FSB estimates that smaller companies in the UK suffer as many as seven million cyber-crimes every year, at a cost of £5.26bn annually.

The report continued:

“This is a substantial on-going additional cost of doing business, reducing the competitiveness of smaller firms and creating a ‘chilling effect’ on the dynamism of the small business community, not least due to the higher costs of adopting new digital networked technologies as a result of such risks. Smaller firms are the least best placed to deal with cyber-threats most effectively, because of the significant constraints under which they operate. Such constraints make smaller businesses highly vulnerable to cyber threats.”

The FSB recommended several steps the government and other stakeholders could take to improve digital skills in small businesses, including tax breaks for training courses, more effective use of the new National Careers Service website and audits of training provision by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

“The twin pressures of rapid technological change and Brexit make upskilling the current workforce more important than ever,” argued FSB national chairman, Mike Cherry.

“Small firms clearly recognize the value of providing training for themselves and their staff, but it can be a struggle to find the time and money, and in some cases even to find the right training locally. All Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) should ensure that there is relevant, accessible training available to meet the needs of small businesses and the self-employed.”

Skills gaps aren’t just a problem among small businesses. More generally the information security sector is heading for a skills “cliff edge”, according to the most recent Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS).

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