Edge publish latest Skills Shortage Bulletin

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The Edge Foundation has published a Skills Shortage Bulletin tracking ongoing and emerging trends in the UK labour market. This edition includes a focus on green jobs and the digital sector, both of which have been at the centre of much of the discussion about future economic recovery.

Covid 19, is unsurprisingly a common theme in this edition. Notably, the latest research suggests that the pandemic has not necessarily created new challenges so much as accelerated existing ones.

The Learning and Work Institute found that those facing the greatest levels of unemployment are so-called ‘low-skilled’ workers and others in sectors that were struggling pre-pandemic. Of particular concern are younger workers, who are entering a deeply depressed labour market; unemployed older people, who face greater obstacles to re-entering the workplace after prolonged unemployment; and non-white workers, for whom the pandemic has compounded existing institutional inequalities.

Meanwhile, evidence from Youth Employment UK’s Youth Voice Census showed a positive growth of work experience before the pandemic, with two third of respondents getting this opportunity during secondary school, but also a worrying trend of increasing division with confidence in employability impacted by gender, ethnicity and additional needs.

The DfE’s Employer Skills Survey provides an excellent baseline for the state of play before Covid. Over the last decade, the survey has shown a consistent fall in recruitment, accompanied by growing skills deficiencies in middle- and high-skilled roles and poor investment in skills development. This highlights that the pandemic is by no means the only cause of the current skills gap.

Research by the Learning and Skills Network gives us an insight into future developments, with ‘high-touch’ roles such as nursing and care topping the list of roles currently most in demand.

The World Economic Forum’s recent report on the future of jobs sets this in a global context, highlighting the increasing pace of existing changes as a result of Covid-19 – over 80% of employers reported that automation has accelerated their work processes.

Despite the stark short-term outlook, there are messages of hope. Ada, the National College for Digital Skills, provides an excellent blueprint for how the education sector might adapt and the OU Business Barometer shows that 48% of employers see apprenticeships and work-based learning as vital to their recovery in 2021 and beyond.