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The future of the UK skills gap and what it means for your business

Luke Warner our consultant managing the role
Posting date: Feb 26, 2019
It’s clear that the way many of us approach work has changed and will continue to do so. We’re now extending the retirement age, working alongside artificial intelligence (AI) and moving between different roles and businesses at a rapid pace.

Organisations face an ever-increasing need to acknowledge and bridge the current widening skills gap, as well as future gaps that are bound to emerge. Providing access to the skills and experience needed to maintain a good level of job mobility will ensure that individuals can achieve their goals as organisations grow their talent pools over the coming years.

How the world of work has changed

By 2025, 90% of jobs will require digital skills, the World Economic Forum estimates. The body also believes that 65% of children currently entering primary school will work in jobs that don’t even exist yet. Many of us have seen AI and other forms of intelligent automation enter our workplaces (and personal lives) and appreciate the incredible benefits to efficiency, productivity and profitability that these technologies offer.
Much has been said in the media about the so-called ‘rise of the machines’, but there may be a greater issue arising. Many CEOs have grown increasingly worried about the availability of key skills and have placed the sourcing of ‘human capital’ as a top business priority. The fast-changing and highly-competitive nature of today’s markets, in which robots are able to cover labour-intensive and routine roles, mean that skilled employees are more valuable than ever.
The very nature of work has also evolved — markets have begun to understand the reality of increased longevity in the general population, with children born in affluent countries now expected to have careers spanning 60-70 years. If we also consider that employees are more likely to move to different positions (the average tenure of a job now being around 4.5 years), we can see that people entering the workforce today will be working for a variety of different employers throughout their lifetime.
The question remains, however: just how do businesses ensure their staff are appropriately trained and set on a path to individual, organisational and wider socio-economic success?

Adapting to the need for new skills

The first step to success includes identifying and acknowledging new ways of working and then adapting to them. Organisations should foster the right will and develop appropriate skills with a certain degree of speed.
‘Will’ is incredibly important for forward-thinking organisations. It’s the product of desire and tenacity, as well as evidence of the firm’s appetite to advance with the times. Executives and boards should be asking themselves whether they have the collective nerve to branch out and try new things. Disruption seems to be the way of the future, and organisations will have to adapt in order to take advantage of the opportunities available.
Secondly, firms will have to ensure that their employees are consistently developing new skills that are aligned with business objectives. Working with a specialised expert trainer will help deliver effective outcomes for your staff. This change of pace is not going to relent any time soon, so businesses will need to make these adjustments with constant mindfulness and great efficiency. 
‘Soft’, or ‘transferable’, skills will actually be most in demand going forward. Employers now list an average of five soft skills on their job advertisements. In addition, 85 percent of job success has been found to be related to well-developed soft skills, according to research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Institute.
While we should certainly not understate the importance of technical skills, the fact that these abilities now have such a short half-life (due to the sheer rate of technological change) means that the concept of a ‘single career’ employee is readily declining in popularity.
It is in the here and now that we should be focused on fostering skills such as communication, active listening, problem-solving, creativity, persuasiveness and empathy in employees. These skills better enable job mobility, allowing employees to easily transition to new roles and remain agile and competitive in a fast-paced, globalised job market. 

The benefits of promoting learning

To bridge current and future skills gaps, organisations should consider implementing a corporate talent strategy based on three core concepts:
  • Acquisition
  • Development
  • Management
A talent strategy should cover all the core concepts and key stages in an employee’s life cycle with equal attention.
Organisations need to promote the concept of lifelong learning and encourage their employees’ curiosity so they can grow organically.
Finally, lifelong learning should be engaging and fun. People will genuinely want to learn more if they find the experience enjoyable. Using learning technologies such as videos, simulations and augmented reality – in combination with more traditional modes of learning such as workshop activity – will enable employees to learn more effectively.
Employees with a hearty set of transferable skills to draw upon will be those most able to align to new ways of working, be agile within a competitive marketplace and help organisations reach their goals while working towards their own. Indeed, it will be this attitude that better equips firms to survive and thrive.

How we can help

At Huntswood Recruitment, we pride ourselves on keeping up with market and technological trends to provide a more tailored recruitment solution to our clients and candidates. We’re experts in sourcing skilled specialists for niche roles and understand the intricacies of every role we source for. For more on how we can help you, click here



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