Over the month of June, we’ve been setting out the case for our new Language of Skills — an initiative which is all about helping people define the skills they have, enabling employers to articulate the skills they need, and giving education providers the understanding of which skills they need to be teaching. The idea being that if all three stakeholders can speak the same skills language, there is far more chance of people being trained with the skills employers really need, so improving employability, raising productivity and reducing the skills gaps that have blighted parts of the economy for years.
What we want to do over another series of three pieces, is to look at how we can use this Language of Skills to identify various aspects of employer demand in the country. This is something that is taking on profound importance, given the seismic changes to the labour market, and the huge disruption this is causing throughout the country, with large numbers of people losing their jobs and many businesses struggling to survive. As we continue through the crisis and emerge out the other end, in order to get people retrained and back into work, it will be really important to understand which skills are most in-demand. But how can we do this?
We mentioned in our Language of Skills series, that we have an Open Skills Library which contains over 33,000 skills terms, and which is updated and refreshed every fortnight. What we have done is tag these skills terms to our Job Postings Analytics data, which means that we are able to get some really good insights on, among other things, skills demand across the nation, skills demand in different areas, and skills demand for specific employers. What we want to do in this short series is to look at some data on those three themes — nation, regions, and employers — beginning with a look at the UK as a whole.
Let’s begin by looking at the changing nature of skills over the last few years. The following moving chart shows the top 40 skills across the country from January 2016 to May 2020, in terms of unique job postings per month, and as you look through it there are three main things to notice:
- Firstly, there is very little change among the top in-demand skills throughout the period, with the likes of Communication, Management and Sales remaining constantly high throughout.
- Most of the changes take place in the 20-40 skills, and you can see how certain skills gain or lose importance over time. For instance, SQL (Programming Language) moves from number 25 in January 2016 to number 32 by May 2020, indicating a relative decline in importance.
- The last two months or so have seen some big changes, and it is noteworthy to see skills more associated with caring occupations joining the top 40, such as Mental health, Welfare, and Personal care.
(Note: You can pause the chart and mover the slider to any point of the timeline to get a snapshot for each month, and press the refresh button to play again).
If we look at the change in skills in 2020 so far, we can see some of the changes observed in the moving chart above in more detail. The chart below shows change in skills demand since the start of the year, and there are a couple of very striking things about it. Firstly, there are just six skills that have grown in demand over this period, which really gives a good indication of just how much employer hiring has slumped during the period of lockdown. But secondly, those skills that have grown are a clear reflection of some of the issues that have arisen in the labour market over the past few months, giving more specific context to them. Skills such as Learning disabilities, Personal care, Welfare and Mental health have all seen significant growth in demand, as has Amazon Web Services — for obvious reasons:
At the other end of the spectrum, we can also take a look at which skills have declined in demand the most. In the chart below, we have taken the top 100 in-demand skills, and picked out the 20 which have declined the most since the start of the year. Again, there are a number of skills on the chart that clearly reflect some of the specific labour market challenges we might have expected from what has been happening since March. For instance, Restaurant operation and Hospitality are both down significantly, but there are also noticeably a lot of sales-related skills on the list as well:
The kind of data and insight shown in this piece is helpful in understanding how skills demand is changing throughout the nation, which is especially useful at this time of labour market turmoil. But where this really comes into its own is where it can be used to track skills demand and change at the local level. In our next piece we’ll take a look at that, comparing different areas to see how much variation there is in the skills being demanded in each place.
To find out more about how our Language of Skills, and the skills data in our Job Postings Analytics can help your organisation, get in touch.