Fleur Sexton, Deputy Lieutenant West Midlands and Managing Director of PET-Xi – one of the most hard-hitting and dynamic training providers in the UK with a reputation for success with the hardest to reach – discusses the need to ‘future-proof’ jobs to address the skills shortage and Level Up.
Why is there a rise in vacancies?
The jobs landscape is rapidly changing and evolving at an ever increasing rate, young people aged 18-34 are likely to have 12 or more different jobs in their working life – with such a fluid job market the ability to adapt and develop are key to success. In 2020, the World Economic Forum, forecast that by 2025, 40% of the workforce will require upskilling, 94% of business leaders will expect their employees to pick up new skills on the job, and 70% of employers will offer reskilling and upskilling opportunities to their employees.
Currently in the UK, we are experiencing a greater candidate skills gap than ever before, with the percentage of applicants applying for jobs without the requisite skills, rising from 34% to 51%. This jump is due to a burgeoning need for digital skills to fuel the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and its rapid developments and innovations – artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other advances, and the demands of emerging ‘green industries’ needed to meet the UK’s 2050, net zero target. Add to this, post-Brexit changes to immigration and employment and the exodus of European workers from adult social care, hospitality and construction, and the applicant deficit is laid bare. However, all this change can also create opportunities for upskilling our young people and reskilling those already in work.
How to fill these vacancies
In 2022, a record number of UK organisations – 90% – planned to recruit – an increase of nearly 25% on last year, however 87% say they are struggling to find candidates that fit the bill. Current skills gaps maybe significant, but they are just the tip of the iceberg, with forecasts of a shortfall of up to four million highly skilled workers by 2024. Now is the time to support our young people and address the skills gap.
Opportunities for training to provide young people with the skills and support to move into employment, are dependent on the needs of employers in the area. An overall blanket approach from central government cannot be as effective as local initiatives. Improved employment increases aspirations, health, wealth, wellbeing and social justice within communities. But, if an upskilled worker must move out of the locality in order to find a suitable job for their talents, the benefit to the community is lost. Upskilling or reskilling must reflect the opportunities, objectives and requirements of local business and social care.
Offering flexibility to fill vacancies
In order to fill vacancies, employers are finding they have to be more flexible to the demands of potential employees. Over 75% of companies are now offering hybrid positions. This allows greater flexibility to employees outside the vacancy’s location, a plus for those living in areas which have less opportunities. However, in order to take advantage of these openings, young people must have the requisite IT skills and be experienced users of digital platforms.
With so many variables involved in building and sustaining success – long-term ‘future-proofing’ – investment in the workforce is a must. Businesses are realising that in order to keep their employees they need to offer on-the-job training and development. If this extends to welcoming young people with potential and supporting them to attain the necessary skills and understanding, it’s a win-win situation for both.
Creating adaptable employees
To support an everchanging business landscape, employees must be adaptable, able to think on their feet and communicate their ideas effectively. Qualifications in maths, English and IT are required, but ‘soft-skills’ are gaining importance, with the World Economic Forum citing critical thinking and problem solving as headlining the list of requirements from employers. We need to ensure that these skills are being fostered and developed throughout every child’s school career and during post 16 training courses and further education.
Presently the highest numbers of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) are 16 and 17 year olds, these are equivalent to levels a decade ago. Their final years at school during the pandemic, left them with high levels of uncertainty about what the future holds. Without the usual support at the key transition points, they left school feeling ill-equipped to enter the workplace. For many of them, without knowledge about the opportunities available to them or work experience, inaction seems the best option.
Making young people aware of the ever changing job market
With an ever-changing and expanding job market, we need to ensure young people know about potential futures that could be available to them. We need to support them as they explore career pathways, to identify the steps towards achieving a career goal – understanding the knowledge, skills and personal traits they need to fulfil their aspirations.
In order to really take hold of the Levelling Up initiatives and address the inequalities in today’s society, we must improve opportunities for young people and ensure they are not limited by a lack of basic literacy, numeracy, IT and employability skills. The traditional ideas about employment and a ‘job for life’ no longer apply, now is the time to plan for the future, it starts today.
By Fleur Sexton, Deputy Lieutenant West Midlands and Managing Director of PET-Xi