In-Demand Skills – what are they, and how can I get them?

It’s an uncertain time for the UK economy and labour force, as we get ever-closer to the date we leave the EU with still no clear idea of how individuals’ lives will be affected. We can expect, though, for a percentage of our workforce to change – as it is doing gradually anyway, with a more diverse group of people being able to work thanks to flexibility of access and conditions. More people are in work than have been since the 1970s, although our definition of ‘work’ has changed somewhat. And as well as the workforce changing, work itself is changing too. Industry 4.0 is upon us, automating those parts of our jobs that are easily done by machines, and freeing us up to labour at more ‘human’ skills. And despite being told that qualities such as leadership, communication and teamwork are important, they aren’t the be-all and end-all; many of the growing industries and roles at the moment rely on solid technical skills.

So which of these skills are companies looking for at the moment? Read on for a look at some of the UK’s more in-demand skills and see how you match up. Unfortunately, those people who have no qualifications are generally the same people who have the least access to training and re-skilling, so if that’s you, by reading this you have already made a great first step in working out where to go next.

  • Cloud computing – engineering high-performance computer networks for maintenance and security purposes – was identified by LinkedIn Research as the number one technical skill in demand. In order to get a solid background in this, you can do an undergraduate course in something like computing networks or software engineering, or if you already have an undergraduate degree, you can go straight to postgraduate level. If that level of commitment doesn’t work for you right now, you can check out online Futurelearn courses to pick up the skills in a more flexible, self-managed way.
  • Healthcare skills are certain to be in demand more and more as our population ages and changes. According to a Guardian report last year, restructuring around nursing careers means that there is now a defined career path for healthcare assistants towards becoming registered nurses. Fortunately, this is a role where – if you aren’t great at formal education – you can undertake a good deal of training on the job, and start with almost nothing (similarly to David, a home support worker we spoke to last year). It’s perfect for you if you like helping people, have keen observation skills and a good memory for detail.
  • UX (or user experience) design is also a key skill in forward-thinking industries. This kind of job could involve designing apps, websites, educational platforms or even events and spaces, and it needs an eye for aesthetics and an ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But more than that, it needs a set of hard skills and practical experience focused on graphics and technology. There’s a good overview of how to get to the right level at Career Foundry.
  • Cookery, with its layers of balance and nuance, is another of those very human skills (despite attempts to create a robot-chef restaurant) that is predicted to stay in demand for a very long while to come, with more than 20% of chef jobs of all levels staying on job sites for more than 60 days. It needs dedicated training and particular knowledge and experience to do; however, like healthcare, you can easily learn on the job by starting out as a kitchen porter or commis chef and working your way up. In fact, even formal education opportunities in cookery come with a heavy dose of practical experience at the same time, thanks to the need for useable skills right from the start.

According to data from Burning Glass’s labour insights, there’s been a shift in skills needs across the UK from a very recent period of 60 days (Dec 2018-Jan 2019) to the same period the previous year.

Skills with a much bigger demand include cleaning (a huge 51% increase), customer service, teamwork/collaboration and food safety – those more ‘human’ tasks which require judgement and social connection – whereas the skills with the biggest downshift are technical abilities such as SQL, C#, JavaScript and Accounting skills.

This could be an indicator that jobs which need more transferable skills than explicit previous training are being advertised in a different way, giving us more access to that part of the labour market; or it could be symptomatic of a change in viewpoint of employers, in that they may be recognising that ‘hard’ skills can be taught on the job, and what they actually require in a new employee is the right mindset and communication abilities.

We’ve only covered some of the most in-demand skills here, but there are more. Check out this useful compilation of statistics from studies throughout the UK, and if any of the roles appeal, try carrying out your own research to see how easily you could learn new skills!

Author: Katherine

Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 + one =