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THE SKILLS IMPERATIVE 2035: ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR TOMORROW’S WORKFORCE.

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has published a report looking at the skills people will need for the future world of work.

The current world of work is in a state of transformation due to technological advancements, environmental changes, demographic shifts, and the impact of Covid-19. Calls are intensifying for workforce reskilling and a re-engineering of education and training to meet the demands of the future.

Current policy in England focuses on technical, digital and green economy skills, underpinned by strong literacy and numeracy and a knowledge-rich school curriculum. There is currently limited understanding of the combination of essential employment skills which will be needed, their relative importance, and how to develop them.

To fill this evidence gap, the NFER research study, ‘the Skills Imperative 2035: Essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce’ looks at:

  • Which essential employment skills will be most needed in 2035;
  • What will their likely supply be and where the gaps will be;
  • Which occupations and workers are most at risk of not having these skills;
  • Which skills will affected workers need to develop to transition into new employment opportunities, and
  • The role of educators and employers in helping to prepare young people and workers for the future labour market.

There seems little doubt that the labour market will change and evolve over time.  The report suggests that some sectors will develop while others will decline: –

  • Growing sectors are predicted to be health, social & personal care roles; education; professional services; sales/business development; creative, digital & design; green economy; information & communication; and natural & applied sciences.
  • Declining sectors are predicted to be administrative/secretarial; manufacturing/production; and retail/cashier work. Agricultural and business administration/finance sectors are also widely expected to decline.

The report also found that in addition to literacy & numeracy and technical / digital skills, that transferable and interpersonal skills will become ever more important in the face of technology. These are categorised as: –

  1. Analytical/creative;
  2. Interpersonal;
  3. Self-management; and
  4. Emotional intelligence skills.

While self-management skills and social and emotional strengths are generally found to be better predictors of income at the age 25 than cognitive skills, well-developed essential employment skills have also been linked to a higher level of academic performance. However, there is little doubt that there will be significant challenges in the forthcoming years for both educational institutes, training providers and employers, who will all need to respond quickly to address future need.

The full report can be accessed here.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL.

The Department for Education (DfE) launched a White Paper at the end of March which outlines government plans to level up education and make sure every child realises their potential.

The paper titled ‘Opportunity for all: Strong schools with great teachers for your child’ sets out the government’s vision for the school system by 2030, focused on world-class literacy and numeracy.

The White Paper also sets out four pillars to deliver on this vision:

  1. An excellent teacher for every child.
  2. High standards of curriculum, behaviour and attendance leading to calm and collaborative environments.
  3. Targeted support for every child who needs it.
  4. A stronger and fairer school system ensuring all children benefit from being taught in a strong family of schools.

There will also be: –

  • 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024
  • Specialist training to drive better literacy through a new National Professional Qualification for Leading Literacy; and
  • £30,000 starting salaries to attract and retain the very best teachers – with additional incentives to work in the schools with the most need.

The full White Paper can be accessed here.

THE YOUTH EMPLOYMENT INDEX.

According to recently published research by PwC and the Youth Futures Foundation (YFF), a significant proportion of young people risk being stranded in low-wage work, or outside education or employment, in the coming decades, unless the UK creates a more inclusive and resilient labour market.

The Youth Employment Index research is a collaboration between PwC and YFF which measures, benchmarks and monitors youth employment and the access of young populations to education and training across OECD countries.

The UK labour market has performed in the middle-of-the-pack for many years in terms of its opportunities for young people, with many of the most vulnerable remaining inactive for long periods of time,  The latest published research shows that the UK has improved its ranking to 18th amongst other OECD countries, but has moved up from 20th overall.

Existing trends in the UK labour market were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, widening existing inequalities affecting young people, especially from minority groups.  At the start of the pandemic, youth unemployment increased by over four percentage points more than the rest of the workforce, with young people being over-represented in shut-down sectors who were more likely to already be employed in temporary jobs and zero hours contracts anyway.

The research recommends a wide range of policy areas to support the development of adaptable, resilient skills, empowering young people to find productive, rewarding work and promote their wellbeing.

The report has developed 13 separate policy proposals – including the development of existing policy and novel policy suggestions. These are policies are categorised under four key areas to help build a comprehensive youth policy strategy, namely: –

  1. Developing skills through investing in better vocational training, improving skills matching, encouraging a more flexible education system and increasing emphasis on place-based policies;
  2. Supporting people by providing proper career guidance and mentorship, promoting well-being in young people, and addressing inequality;
  3. Supporting incomes through improving social safety nets for young people, using targeted fiscal policy during economic downturns and supporting those negatively impacted by technological innovation; and
  4. Shaping labour demand by investing in high productivity sectors, improving legal and regulatory protections for all workers and developing appropriate measures of job quality.

To read the full PwC / YFF research report please access this link.

HAPPY NEW TAX YEAR.

The Resolution Foundation reports that the new tax year 2022-23 brings a number of immediate changes that will affect household incomes. Most benefits are rising by only 3.1%; the National Living Wage is rising by 6.6% to £9.50 an hour; while the energy price cap is rising by 54%.

Council Tax will rise by about 3.4% but around four in every five households will receive a £150 rebate in April through the Council Tax system; a 5p Fuel Duty cut has already taken effect; and VAT on hospitality has now returned to its pre-pandemic rate of 20%. But there are also a number of direct tax changes:

  1. The four-year freezing of Income Tax thresholds begins, alongside a freezing of Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and VAT thresholds. This will not mean a nominal jump in anyone’s tax bills, but means that the personal allowance will remain at £12,570 rather than rising to £12,960. Additionally, the higher-rate threshold will remain at £50,270.
  2. Tax rates for dividend income are rising by 1.25%, as part of the ‘Health and Social Care Levy’ package. This only affects people with over £2,000 of dividend income.
  3. Most significantly, all National Insurance (NI) rates will rise by 1.25% in April. This effects employers, employees and the self-employed, and means that the basic NI rate for employees will rise from 12% to 13.25%.
  4. Working in the opposite direction, however, the starting point for paying non-employer NI is rising in April from an annual equivalent of £9,568 to £9,880 – in line with the rate of inflation last autumn – but will then, as announced in the Spring Statement, jump to £12,570 in July.

The overall impact of these policy choices on people’s incomes will be complex, as changes in allowances and thresholds interact in complicated ways with changes in rates. However, in isolation they are more straightforward and can be characterised as follows:

  • The freezing of the Income Tax personal allowance will leave almost all of the 33m people who pay Income Tax each year around £80 worse off. The freezing of the higher-rate threshold will leave higher (and additional) rate payers an extra £160 worse off.
  • The personal NI rate rise will only affect earnings but, as an extra 1.25% tax on annual earnings above £9,880 (in April), it will mean additional tax of around £200 a year for someone earning £27,000, and around £1,100 for someone earning £100,000.
  • The significant increase in the NI threshold will mean a tax cut of £270 across 2022-23 (accounting for the fact that it does not take effect until July) for employees earning above the new threshold, and will also take around 2 million workers out of direct tax altogether.
  • Those affected by these changes and also receiving Universal Credit (UC) will only get 45% of any tax cut (or pay 45% of any tax rise), as the benefit is tapered against net earnings, so higher net earnings lead to a reduced UC award.

To full research article can be found here.

PAVING THE WAY.

According to Sutton Trust research, pupils say that they are four times less likely to have received substantial guidance on Apprenticeships than they do about University.  Additionally, more than a third (36%) of secondary school pupils in England don’t feel confident in taking their next steps in education and training either.

Previous research by the Sutton Trust highlighted a postcode lottery of careers advice across the country. Since then, the government has set targets for schools built on the Gatsby benchmarks for good careers guidance and established the Careers and Enterprise Company.

The latest research finds that while progress has been made, there is still variation across schools, with the research identifying gaps between state schools with more and less deprived intakes, and between state and private schools.

The research asked teachers and pupils about the careers activities on offer at their school, including sessions with careers advisers, employer talks and trips to careers fairs. However, 36% of students said that they had not taken part in any of the activities listed, with state school pupils more likely to say this as those in private schools (38% vs 23%).

Schools in more deprived areas are also less likely to have access to a specialist careers adviser, with 21% of teachers in the most deprived areas reporting non-specialists delivered personal guidance, compared to 14% in more affluent areas.

The research also highlights differences in guidance given to students on academic and technical routes. Nearly half (46%) of 17 and 18-year olds (Year 13) say they received a ‘large amount’ of information on university routes during their education, compared to just 10% who say the same for apprenticeships.

COVID-19 has also had an impact on careers provision. 72% of teachers think the pandemic has negatively impacted their school’s ability to deliver careers education and guidance, with teachers in state schools being more likely to report this than teachers in private schools (75% vs 59%).

To further improve careers provision across schools, the Sutton Trust make a number of recommendations:

  • Every young person should have access to a professional careers adviser and a set minimum number of interactions with employers, including work experience.
  • Students should receive more information on apprenticeship options, with better enforcement of the Baker Clause, requiring schools to give information on a range of pathways.
  • More time should be earmarked in the curriculum to deliver careers education and guidance.

A link to the full Sutton Trust report can be found here: – Paving the Way.

TWO-THIRDS OF UK WORKERS FIND MAKING FRIENDS REMOTELY CHALLENGING.

Employers have been urged to do more to encourage social connections between remote staff after a survey revealed that nearly two thirds of Brits find it difficult to make work friends while working from home.

A poll of 2,500 UK workers, conducted by OC Tanner as part of its Global Culture Report, found 63% of people said it was more challenging forming new friendships with colleagues while working remotely.

Over half of those polled (58%) also admitted that the office was where most of their new friendships are formed, while 71% of UK workers said they valued colleague interactions.

The research also found that 71% of employees found it easier to make personal connections with people from other generations when in the office, while the same percentage felt they are more able to make friendships with people of different cultures in an office environment.

The findings come as employers were urged to focus on improving flexible working, employee wellbeing and other areas of workplace culture in order to attract talent in an increasingly competitive market.

The People Management article can be found here, while the full Global Culture Report can be found via this link.

STOP THE BIAS.

The Equality Act of 2010 was a landmark moment for employers.  It was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in our lifetime as it promised an end to discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or disability, but today we’re still talking about Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.  In fact, the conversation has never been more prominent with issues like Black Lives Matter forcing society as a whole to examine its biases.

Research from Tribepad looked at whether candidates feel like they are protected from discrimination when applying for their next role, and unfortunately, the answer appears to be ‘No’.

The Tribepad report takes a deep dive into the issue of bias, exploring the root of the problem as well as its impact on candidates, with the aim being twofold: – to highlight the flaws in the current system and to empower employers to bring about real change to benefit everyone.

While Equality, Diversity and Inclusion efforts have long focussed on eliminating bias on the basis of people’s race, gender or sexual orientation; today’s candidates are just as worried about being discriminated against because of their accents, their age and even their appearance.

In a perfect world, people would get hired based on their work experience, their attitude and the skills they bring to the table, however, Tribepad analysis shows that candidates have real concerns that biases, whether conscious or otherwise, might seriously impact their chances of getting their next role.

The findings reveal that candidates’ biggest concerns are being discriminated against due to age, personal appearance and disability.  Meanwhile issues such as mental health, accents and simply being a parent were also common.

The 10 biggest biases according to applicants were: –

  • Age (too old) – 64.4%
  • Personal appearance – 19.6%
  • Disability or learning needs – 17.6%
  • Gender or gender identity – 17.4%
  • Race or ethnicity – 15.5%
  • Weight – 14.6%
  • Age (too young) – 13.5%
  • Accent – 13.3%
  • Mental Health – 12.6%
  • Being a parent – 12.6%.

However, while some of these fears of bias are not protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act, the focus from an employer perspective in addressing biases was as follows: –

  • Ethnicity – 92%
  • Gender – 87%
  • Disability – 72%
  • Part-time Working/Flexible Working – 62%
  • Socio-Economic Background – 51%
  • Gender Identity – 51%
  • Age – 41%
  • Sexual Orientation – 36%
  • Religion/Belief – 23%, and
  • Other – 5%.

It should be pointed out, that while a ‘fear’ of bias itself has no bearing on whether the bias truly exists or not, the clear disparity between the focus of employers and the views of candidates does indeed suggest that organisations still have a lot to do to make recruitment more of a level playing field for all.

The full report looking at perceived bias can be accessed here.

CLOSING THE UK’S GREEN SKILLS GAP.

The Green Alliance has published a report on the green skills gap which highlights the need for action to ensure the UK job market has the skills necessary for the green economy to develop.

As the government has committed to delivering a net zero economy by 2050 and has highlighted its intention to spread economic benefits across the country through ‘levelling up’, it is felt that the transition to net zero will create new economic opportunities that can be harnessed to spread opportunity across the country, but to do so will require new skills in the UK’s workforce.

The Green Alliance Report identifies specific gaps in skills and makes recommendations for the development of an integrated skills programme to marry the government’s environmental ambitions with its economic and social aims.

The Findings

  1. Every major sector in the UK needs to close a significant skills gap to enable them to reach net zero.
  2. The sectors with the most pressing emissions reductions by 2030 face the most immediate skills shortages, including housing and transport. Along with land use, these sectors already face shortages to deliver the status quo, let alone progress on net zero.
  3. Eighty per cent (80%) of the current workforce will still be active in 2030. As well as attracting new green entrants there should be a focus on transferring existing skills and retraining for the green economy.

The Recommendations

Green skills are central to both levelling up and economic growth, so the government must start from a point of integration. Current and forthcoming legislation on lifetime skills and the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) must give due regard to environmental goals, while environmental legislation must do the same for skills.

However, to ensure the economy does not return to sluggish growth and green jobs do not only stay in the south east but spread across the country, ministers should design and implement a new comprehensive green skills programme, supported in three ways via Industry, Institutions and Individuals.

Industry Will Need To: –

  • Develop a UK-wide body and framework for green jobs, to match supply and demand regionally and across sectors.
  • Identify and develop local skills plans that link businesses with universities and colleges and reflect local dynamics.
  • Sector boards will have to collect frequent, granular labour market intelligence for the green transition.
  • And a super-deduction for training, providing 130% tax relief for investment in employees’ green skills should be implemented.

Institutions Will Need To: –

  • Develop green courses, using the new framework to understand the landscape of the future workforce.
  • Establish environmental modules in other courses as the new skill requirements are not confined to green jobs.

Individuals Will Need To: –

  • Support public facing campaigns to increase knowledge about green skills and their benefits, complementing efforts by industry.
  • Provide support for workers while they retrain, in the form of loans, grants or maintenance payments.
  • Use existing programmes to boost green skills, such as the digital skills bootcamp model.

To read the full Green Alliance report please click here.

 

 

RECRUITING YOUNG PEOPLE FACING DISADVANTAGE: AN EVIDENCE REVIEW.

Although youth unemployment has long been a concern, reports by the Chartered Institute of Personnel (CIPD) and Youth Futures Foundation (YFF) note that this has been exacerbated during the pandemic, with young people experiencing the greatest rise in unemployment levels.

While unemployment has now largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, hundreds of thousands of young people are still seeking work and there is an increase in those who are economically inactive.  At the same time, job vacancies have been increasing and have hit record levels in most industries across the UK.

After a period of reduced recruitment and hiring, employers are now having to compete harder to fill job openings. The increased competition for candidates is driving employers’ attention to underutilised pools of talent, who have traditionally been overlooked when accessing employment.

Disadvantaged young people are in most need of these opportunities, and in this context, it is vital that employers can effectively recruit young people from marginalised groups, who may need more support to move towards, or return to, paid work.

Young people can face barriers not relating to education, skills or job performance, such as their age, race, skin colour, gender or disability as well as lacking qualifications, education, or the social and professional skills needed to enter the job market, due to factors such as poverty, lack of support, drug use, mental health problems, discrimination or other social issues. Furthermore, these issues can be compounded by: –

  • Ineffective recruitment channels and adverts
  • Poor selection methods
  • Subgroup differences
  • Unconscious bias.

The first step recruiters and employers have to take in employing disadvantaged young people is to get the message about vacancies out to them. The usual communication channels might not work for reaching disadvantaged young people; for example, they may not see a job advert if a recruiter relies on LinkedIn. Barriers can be that they lack confidence, do not know how to job search effectively, or do not know enough about the jobs market to find the right job opportunities.

Instead, there is some evidence to suggest that people from disadvantaged groups often rely more on personal contacts and their informal networks to find employment opportunities, as well as searching for work more locally.  Therefore, recruiters would be more effective if they reach out to local communities and engage with spaces and places where disadvantaged young people are more likely to be represented, otherwise recruitment problems and youth disadvantage will continue to persist.

To read the recommendations and see the full CIPD and YFF reports please click on the respective links.

THE UK LABOUR MARKET PUZZLE.

According to Get My First Job (GMFJ), employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find workers.  A report published by GMFJ discusses solutions to this problem and what can be done about it.

The tight labour market means that employers will need to implement new and innovative ways of attracting the talent in order to grow their business. This includes communicating more effectively the salaries and benefits they offer, and many employers will also be thinking about investing in new technology to automate processes as labour becomes more expensive.

The fiercely competitive labour market will also mean employers having to look to the early talent market to fill the roles they are having trouble recruiting, which in turn will necessitate closer collaboration with education and training providers, particularly in promoting apprenticeships in more creative and appealing ways.

The huge number of job vacancies that have been seen over the last few months cannot continue to rise indefinitely, and so some sort of move to equilibrium between labour supply and demand is likely to happen at some point.  However, both employers, education and training providers should seize the opportunity to review their strategy for recruiting employees and apprentices, not only to get through this time of change, but also to be better placed for the future.

To better understand the ramifications of the changing jobs market, access the full GMFJ report here.