Workplace skills mismatch: how are you responding?


The fourth industrial revolution is here. In-demand skills are rapidly changing, so what does this mean for the future of our existing workforce when it comes to developing these new, valuable skills?

The idea of the 9-5 desk job is rapidly becoming outdated. In more and more businesses, employees can work remotely, video meetings are held virtually across the world, files are shared in the cloud and digital tools are used across almost every part of a business – from project management to HR, marketing and accounting.

As organisational demands change and standard offline tools shift over to digital ones, it is becoming apparent that there is an increasing mismatch between the skills that are needed and the skills that actually exist in the workforce. With automation and data intelligence on the rise, we’re seeing skill demands in workplaces change rapidly in accordance with this. Unfortunately, this means people are potentially being left behind as some industry skills and knowledge become outdated.

Adult learning is a key solution to updating and developing skill sets and there are a lot of training resources available, but research shows that a significant number of people haven’t participated in formal learning in the last 10 years. So, the big question we are asking ourselves is what can be done to close the divide between the potentially outdated skills out there and the skills that are needed?

The UK’s demand for skills, particularly for technology and interpersonal skills, will increase considerably over the next decade.

It is becoming clearer that interpersonal skills, such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others are in high demand across all industries, with these skillsets being favoured over industry-specific specialist skills. According to findings from We Forum in 2016, content skills, cognitive abilities, and skills such as active listening and critical thinking will be a growing part of the core requirements for many industries.

In a report by the Industrial Strategy Council, they state that “Skills mismatch can reflect both skill shortage and skill surplus. For example, the spread of automation and Artificial Intelligence could boost productivity in some sectors but also displace some lower-skilled jobs, while the demand for highly skilled labour will increase, as Research & Development and innovation become critical in a future tech-led economy.”

The results of this research highlight the growing inequalities across the UK when it comes to accessing learning opportunities around the country – particularly with people who could benefit the most from returning to education to upskill. This shortage of relevant skills will become an increasingly critical problem and boosting efforts to make lifelong learning accessible to all and increasing investment in adult education will be even more important.

People are not accessing the right training needed to upskill enough (if at all) so that they can meet the demands of the changing employment landscape.

Research by the Learning and Work Institute indicates that only one in three adults has taken part in learning in the past three years. This is the lowest number on record!

In an adult learning survey completed by TES and NESTA on lifelong learning, people are not accessing the training they need even though there is currently an abundance of learning platforms and courses available to them. Why is this the case? The survey suggests a variety of reasons, including:

1.         People don’t know where they can turn to for training;

2.         They face barriers such as lack of time, money and confidence;

3.         Family commitments prevent them from pursuing learning opportunities.

Unlocking the barriers to learning will help people navigate changing business demands.

There are currently great upskill resources available in the UK, including:

E-Learning Platforms

There has been an explosion of online learning platforms in recent years, including Coursera, Udemy, and EdX among others. Many offer courses completely free of charge and ones that can be followed at your own pace.

Adult Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are not just for school leavers and young people; they are for everyone. Adult apprenticeships are useful for career changes or for adults who are moving into a new job that requires totally different skills and abilities.

Stay Nimble

Stay Nimble is a digital career coaching platform launched to help millions find better work, to help the UK build resilient communities and to improve access to new types of work in local economies.

Digital Mums

Digital Mums’ goal is to help women return to the workplace, make positive changes in their current careers, help mums to build digital and workplace confidence, and to prepare mums to be job-ready in a flexible career.

Grow with Google

Google believe that digital skills help us make the most of life, whether it’s getting the career you want, or being confident online and set up Google’s Digital Garage to ensure no-one is held back because they don’t have the digital skills that they need.


So, while we are starting to see more adult education opportunities becoming available to meet these skill-set changes, research shows that a large proportion of the current workforce is simply not getting access to available training for these in-demand skills.

How can we ensure working adults are given the opportunity to learn these new skills, so they are not made redundant due to lack of know-how? Although there are wonderful training resources and opportunities available that offer unique solutions to upskilling, we need to see much more investment and awareness in order to make them available to and accessed by more people!

Author: Becky Wong

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