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Addressing skills gaps: A solution to securing employment

Andrew Barton Andrew Barton Senior Operations Manager of Learning for Work at NCFE

When it comes to the reporting of employment types for UK labour market statistics, people are separated into one of three groups: employment, unemployment or economic inactivity.  

Whilst the first two are more commonly understood terms, the ONS defines economic inactivity as “people aged 16 and over without a job who have not sought work in the last four weeks and/or are not available to start work in the next two weeks.” This may include students, unpaid carers, long-term or temporarily sick and disabled individuals, retired people or discouraged workers. 

In fact, recent ONS data shows that the current percentage of adults in the UK who are economically inactive is at 21%. We’re also seeing the highest rate of economic inactivity within the over 50s since the beginning of the pandemic.  

This presents a paradox with the recent trends in vacancies – as there are currently more open vacancies across the nation than there are candidates to fill them.  

The UK’s job market is, at present, very much a candidate’s market. How, then, do we encourage adults into filling these vacancies? 

The issue of skills gaps 

One reason that an individual may feel unprepared to enter (or return to) the workplace could be related to a gap in the essential skills they possess. Essential (or transferable) skills include the likes of resilience, confidence, teamwork, presenting and problem-solving, and are critical for navigating both our professional and personal lives. 

Helping adults to upskill in these areas would be one way to begin to fill the many open job vacancies we’re seeing. But how do we connect these individuals with the skills that we know they require to succeed? And how do we know what specific skills employers are looking for across various sectors? 

Equipping adults with the skills they need 

The answer may seem obvious, but by working in collaboration with businesses and employers to learn more about the skills they require in their industries, this means that we can build this into learning programs so that skills gaps can be addressed in a targeted and effective way. 

That’s why our employability qualifications are built in consultation with employers – to give individuals the best chance to equip themselves with the tools and skills they’ll need to gain employment. From English, maths and digital skills to job searching and business skills, we deliver a comprehensive offering so that adults have everything they need to enter their desired workplace. These qualifications also have the learning of essential skills embedded throughout them. 

But before jumping straight into the learning, consider the significance of benchmarking and learning where an individual is starting from. Are you able to measure this, and do so quantitatively?  

For example, through our skills assessment tools, you can assess customers’ strengths, areas for improvement, and core transferable skills at the outset. This allows you to see where the individual needs to develop and accurately track distance travelled for a more measured approach. This can also ensure learning is more streamlined and effective, by not covering skills that an individual may already possess. 

Beyond employability  

The concept of lifelong learning and encouraging adults to stay engaged in training once they’ve secured employment is another important part of this discussion.  

We’ve created qualifications from Entry Level through to Level 5 in a variety of key sectors such as health and social care, early years, digital, manufacturing and warehousing and more.  

Our qualifications are eligible for a variety of funding streams such as the Adult Education Budget, Lifetime Skills Guarantee, Restart and the European Social Fund, so that individuals from all backgrounds can access further support to upskill and progress.  

A lifelong learning webinar you won’t want to miss 

The conversation around skills gap, economic activity, the current ‘candidate’s market’ and the importance of the lifelong learning journey are complex topics, but ones that by working collaboratively, we can seek effective solutions to.  

If you’ve got questions or are interested in learning more, you’re invited to join our webinar on Thursday 28 July at 12pm to find out how our qualifications and diagnostic tools can support individuals on their lifelong learning journey and put your questions to our expert speakers. 

The answer may seem obvious, but by working in collaboration with businesses and employers to learn more about the skills they require in their industries, this means that we can build this into learning programs so that skills gaps can be addressed in a targeted and effective way. 

Andrew Barton, Senior Operations Manager at Learning for Work, NCFE
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