This piece first appeared on FE News.
What is the single biggest challenge facing the labour market across Britain? The productivity puzzle, perhaps? Or is it the huge disparities that exist between different parts of the country? How about the effects of Brexit? Oh, and let’s not forget automation.
But whilst all these are undoubtedly big challenges, above them all stands an even more fundamental one that needs to be considered if we are to solve the others. That challenge is skills, and in particular the need to tackle the misalignment of skills supply and demand, and to ensure that the currently untapped skills potential of millions of people across the country can be nurtured and flourish.
This was highlighted in the recent Missing Millions report we collaborated on with City & Guilds. Through a combination of data looking at the state of the labour market across the country, plus a survey of 5,000 working age people, the report firstly demonstrates very clearly how different areas of the country have very different economic circumstances and therefore require very different skills solutions, and then goes on to show how the lack of ongoing training in the workplace may be contributing to an under-skilled labour market.
To give just one example of each, whilst the growth in high skilled jobs in London from 2011-2019 was 22.9%, in Tees Valley it was just 4.5%; of those polled in the survey, 60% of respondents stated that they felt the skills they did have were underutilised at least 50% of the time.
Greater focus needed on lifelong learning
The conclusions from the report are that there needs to be a far greater focus on lifelong learning to ensure that people are continually adding to their “core skills” throughout their working lives, and that employers, economic developers and education providers need to be working together in their local situation to make this happen.
City & Guilds’ CEO, Kirstie Donnelly, called on the Government to reverse the decline of the lifelong learning sector to ensure that,
“people in all areas have access to critical skills development and employers have access to the talent they so desperately need.”
Anthony Impey of the Federation of Small Businesses talked about employers,
“embedding flexible working practices and make training available to people at all ages and stages of their careers.”
And in my introductory piece, I highlighted the need to see,
“education providers, economic developers and employers all coming together to promote the concept of lifelong learning, where people can add to their core skills throughout their working lives.”
Rethinking the skills narrative
What the Missing Millions report confirms is that we need joined up solutions to tackle a problem that is getting worse because people are changing jobs rapidly, jobs themselves are changing rapidly, and yet the way we think about jobs, skills and education is still a bit 20th Century.
What we need is a way to rethink the skills narrative: a way that enables employers to better articulate their skills needs; education providers to respond with training that is better aligned to those skills needs; and economic development organisations to understand both skills supply and skills demand in their area, so that they can help bridge the gap and bring both sides together to tackle the problem through local partnerships.
Facilitating this is critical to Emsi’s mission, which is why we have recently opened up a skills library, consisting of nearly 30,000 individual skills, identified from a wealth of job postings and online profiles data, and which is updated every fortnight as our customers spot skills we’ve missed or can better capture.
The purpose of this is to serve as a common language of skills between people looking for work, work looking for people, and educational programmes looking to connect people to the labour market – so enabling that coming together of education providers, economic developers and employers to find solutions to the skills challenge that are so desperately needed.
Working closer together to find solutions
We’ll be picking up on all these themes at the Emsi 2020 Conference: The Great British Talent Challenge. Through keynote speeches from AoC’s David Corke, Kevin Lloyd of Enterprise M3 LEP, and Anthony Impey, we’ll be posing the question of how education providers, economic development organisations and employers can improve the linkage of ongoing talent supply with ongoing talent demand to tackle the skills/talent gap.
This will include how they can work closer together to find solutions; the importance of lifelong learning to ensure that the right skills are being learned throughout people’s lives; and the central place that localised data and insight can play in facilitating this, especially in helping all three sectors understand the nature of jobs better, by breaking them down into their skills components.
We would love to see you there to discuss these issues and to hear your views.
To register your place at the conference, click on the button below.