GCS chief urges comms pros to embrace ambitious digital upskill programme

The executive director of the Government Communications Service has called for additional training and a fundamental rethink about how the Government uses digital comms to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Age.

Alex Aiken: Calling on GCS comms pros to improve digital skills
Alex Aiken: Calling on GCS comms pros to improve digital skills

Alex Aiken is urging comms pros to "embrace" the changes ahead, as GCS this month launches its two-year Accelerate programme to transform digital skills. 

"It is a major undertaking but one we must embrace," explained Aiken, who has pledged to make digital skills a central part of his own professional development.

"There is no comms discipline that has not been and will not continue to be transformed by digital technology. And so every one of us must think of it as fundamental to our roles and not just the responsibility of our digital colleagues." 

The programme is set to be delivered through a series of ‘accelerated learning hubs’ comprising 54 experts from across Whitehall. 

It will be driven through seven workstreams, including the senior civil service, press office, campaigns including digital marketing, internal comms and external affairs, as well as digital content and insight and evaluation departments. 

GCS is recruiting from across government to lead each workstream and oversee learning opportunities, while directors of comms have "committed significant internal resource to support this programme" including through a dedicated central programme office based in the Cabinet Office, added a spokesperson. 

The Accelerate programme has been created following an independent digital audit commissioned by directors of comms last year, covering 22 departments, as well as the Environment Agency. 

Departments were assessed on the maturity of their digital capabilities, specifically focusing on what further skills are needed in comms disciplines including strategic comms, media and campaigns, external affairs and internal comms. 

Although the audit recognised the UK Government’s digital maturity compared with other organisations of the same scale and complexity, there is still a need for a "cultural and structural change in the way we approach digital and technology within communications", said Aiken. 

"It is not exclusively the domain of digital professionals, but one for all government communicators," he pointed out.

"The digitally complex, data-driven and increasingly automated environment that we are entering presents opportunities to connect with our audiences in more ways and with more impact than ever before.

"But becoming a technologically advanced, digital government comms service will not happen overnight so it is imperative that we all approach this challenge with a positive, committed mindset." 

The Accelerate programme will expand to include arms-length bodies from early next year.

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