Ian Pretty

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Why we can no longer expect to have a job for life

Research shows that, between now and 2030, demand for certain skills is expected to rise sharply, while the number of people with those skills is expected to fall. And while this research shouldn’t come as a surprise, it’s important to consider it through a post-pandemic lens.

Key research findings are that digital skills and essential people skills will be under-accounted for in the UK economy by 2030, with around 7-million workers under-skilled and around 0.9-million workers over-skilled. The most widespread under-skill is likely to be in basic digital skills, with around 5-million workers becoming acutely under-skilled by 2030. Additionally, around 2.1-million workers are likely to be acutely under-skilled in at least one high-level people skill (like leadership, decision-making or advanced communication).

Digital skills

The need for strong digital skills was thrown into sharp focus when the global pandemic hit in early 2020 and organisations and people were forced to stay at home and work online. Organisations without digital strategies and people without digital skills – or the ability to quickly adapt – risked being left behind. As we continue to return to ‘normal’, digital skills are becoming ever more important as organisations accelerate their digital strategies and large numbers of people continue to work from home and/or adopt hybrid working arrangements.

People skills

People skills are those essential human characteristics of self-awareness, empathy, resilience, creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. People skills enable you to respond positively to whatever change you face and be successful as individuals, in teams, and as an organisation – and thrive in a digitally connected world. While not always taught directly, these skills develop as part of the college and FE college experience.

Research – and our collective experience of the past two years – is that people with strong digital and human skills are ideally placed to be successful in a post pandemic world, and those with both will be most successful. These people will be in demand in a skills shortage crisis.

The Collab Group

The Collab Group is a membership organisation representing a network of colleges and further education (FE) college groups in the UK. We work with our network of FE colleges and college groups to promote and further their interests and to provide solutions for the UK’s skills and economic growth challenges. We do this through policy work, sharing best practice, talent identification and leadership development, and by generating profitable joint commercial business. We also work with partners in the skills and employment sector, and elsewhere, to transform the current system of technical and professional education.

Our research and recommendations

After carrying out our own research, the Collab Group believe that three key recommendations must be adopted – and adopted quickly – to avoid the impending skills shortage, which risks stifling economic growth across the UK, limiting employment opportunities and earnings, and negatively impacting overall performance, productivity, and prosperity.

Remuneration – teaching staff are leaving for better pay in private sector. By offering more support and improving overall remuneration packages, good quality teaching staff will be available to teach the essential skills and plug the skills gap.

Funding – facilities and equipment for technical courses can be costly and are often too expensive for colleges to deliver on their own. By increasing funding for capital investment for level 4/5 courses, this issue would be immediately addressed.

Retraining – the need to retrain/reskill existing workers must be prioritised. By increasing support for businesses and employers, more employees could be released for essential training/reskilling.

At the Collab Group, we believe these three key recommendations will help address the skills shortage before it becomes a crisis and ensure a society where there are multi-skilled people who can adapt and be successful in the new world or work, where there is no job for life.

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