New policies are needed if the UK is to close the gap in essential employability skills

Up to seven million workers in England could lack the essential employability skills (EES) they need to do their jobs by 2035.

In what is claimed by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to be the first study of its kind, it was found that the proportion of workers in England with significant EES deficiencies which means that the skill requirements of their job exceed their skills that they own. rise from 13% of workers (3.7 million people) in 2023 to 22% (seven million) in 2035 unless urgent action is taken.

The analysis (The Skills Imperative 2035: Rethinking Skills Gaps and Solutions) used a specially designed instrument to assess both the EES people possess (skills supply) and the skill requirements of their jobs (skills demand), before than to compare the two to quantify skills. gaps.

The study found that workers across the labor market will need to use EES more intensively in their jobs in the future.

Almost 90% of the 2.2 million new jobs to be created in England between 2020 and 2035 will be professional occupations, such as scientist and engineer roles that require higher skill levels in these EES.

Unless the supply of these skills increases in response, skills gaps are likely to become more widespread and problematic.

Jude Hillary, principal program investigator and NFER UK co-head of policy and practice, said ministers should be concerned about the prospect of widening skills gaps and should encourage employer investment in developing essential skills of labor force employment.

Allowing these gaps to widen can stifle the country’s productivity and act as a drag on economic growth.

Nearly one in five workers in managerial jobs (for example, HR managers and directors), professional jobs (such as accountants) and related professional occupations had significant EES skill deficiencies, the analysis said.

Workers in jobs such as unskilled trade, sales, customer service and admin were more likely to have underutilized the EES skills they had developed in previous roles or outside of work. Harnessing these hidden skills will become increasingly important to employers, individuals and the economy, given the crucial role that EES will play in the entire workforce in 2035.

The NFER said it was vital that the government played a more active role in supporting education and training providers and encouraging employers to invest in skills. It also recommended that employers facing skills gaps should consider what more they can do to align expectations and skill assessments between managers and workers across their workforce.

Dr Emily Tanner, head of the program at the Nuffield Foundation, said the study highlighted the need for employers to adopt a long-term approach to skills and learning. She said: The robust measurement of essential employability skills in this report provides compelling evidence of the importance of skills for individuals and businesses. It demonstrates the need for a lifelong approach to skills development, as well as opportunities to put skills to use in all occupations.

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