Employers warn of skills shortage as business needs evolve

Most employers have skills shortages in their workforce or expect to have shortages in the next five years, according to research by PwC. A third of respondents said they were experiencing a current shortage in core business skills such as teamwork, leadership, relationship-building and communication skills, while a further 41% expected to have shortages in the year ahead.

The research also suggests a need for capacity building for the net zero transition as over three quarters (76%) of employers already have a shortage of the skills needed to support preparations for net zero or expect to within the next 12 months (36% and 40%, respectively).

However, despite the skills struggle, in general employers show broad positivity about the education system with around 70% of respondents agreeing that it prepares young people well for work, life, and to work at organisations like theirs.

Employers are more divided on potential curriculum changes that would better serve the needs of their organisation. Some 21% ranked young people getting more practical work experience as the curriculum change that would have the greatest impact. Integrating digital skills throughout all subjects was next, ranking first for 17%.

Around two thirds (65%) of employers think assessments prepare young people for the type of work their organisation does and 73% think such methods accurately test academic ability. Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said: “Exams have their place but they can be unduly influenced by someone's background and the opportunities given to them. They’re not the best measure of potential. Employers will miss out on talent if they measure it through one lens alone. Assessment needs to be more inclusive.

“Basic numeracy and literacy should be a given. We also need other skills that stand the test of time, such as empathy, resilience and agility. You can’t predict all the jobs that will exist in the future but you can predict the mindset needed to adapt and be ready.”

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