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Why essential skills are crucial in supporting local economies

Andrew Barton Andrew Barton Senior Operations Manager - Learning for Work

It's clear to see that every region within the UK is facing its own economic challenges and, as the cost-of-living crisis continues, these issues are seemingly becoming even more stark.  

These challenges may be due to one of – or more likely, a mix of – educational attainment, a lack of access to suitable training and learning provision, transport infrastructure challenges, poor social and economic environments, a lack of innovation and investment, and the cost-of-living issue itself. 

Even though there are some common sector skills gaps (including digital, green skills, and health and social care) that have been identified through the Local Skills Improvement Plans, there is one gap that is linked to all sectors – that of essential skills, also known as ‘work-ready skills’, ‘transferable skills’ or ‘employability skills’. 

Why essential skills are key to navigating change 

Employers have identified that they require individuals who are ready to work with practical and transferable essential life skills. This does not mean that they have all the technical skills required for specific roles, but that they have the skills required to be able to carry out a given role and learn the specific skills and ways of working that the employer needs. 

Some essential skills that have been identified include those of communication, problem-solving, teamwork, critical thinking, time management, confidence, resilience, and the application of these skills within the workplace. They can also include basic digital skills, such as the use of Microsoft packages. 

By having a strong set of essential skills, individuals have a set of attributes that can help them to transfer and transition between sectors and industries. They can help to prepare individuals to strengthen their CVs, as well as to subsequently enter or re-enter the workforce if they have taken time away from it. 

These essential skills can also drive a region through periods of change. For example, if there is a downturn due to a key employer or sector moving away from the region, then the essential skills that are required need to be recognised and the essential skills that individuals already have need to be used to diversify the employability offer and fill the skills gaps that remain within the region. This also allows people to retain their place as valuable members of their community. 

LSIPs, essential skills and finding solutions 

At present, there are clear difficulties for employers across all sectors in recruiting the right people at the right time. This issue is exacerbated due to the lack of clear progression opportunities outside of mainstream educational choices, the population decline in people of working age, and increased economic inactivity.  

Adults (individuals who are 19+, but more specifically, those who are 24+) face the biggest challenge with regard to this because of a confusing and shrinking adult funding landscape. It is not only adults who are out of work that need a focus, but also those who are in employment and need to upskill to stay abreast of changing technology – as well as those who may be looking to change careers across different sectors. 

At NCFE, we’re wholly committed to supporting the plans for addressing local skills needs, ensuring no individual is left behind when it comes to education. We are actively involved in the creation of Local skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), which have been developed to provide an agreed set of actionable priorities that employers, providers and other stakeholders in a local area can get behind.  

At present, we sit on the following LSIP groups:  

We also have active engagement with LSIP groups in areas such as Cumbria, Sussex, West & North Yorkshire and Kent. 

By ensuring we can identify and address the essential skills required to tackle specific skills gaps within each of the regions’ LSIPs, we can work together to ensure there's a strong foundation for which to strengthen the local economy across our regions.  

Building a short-, medium- and long-term plan to ensure that a sufficient number of people are equipped with the correct skills at the time jobs become available within their area will be key to this. 

To discover more about the work-based learning qualifications and education products that we offer individuals to enter or re-enter the workplace, visit our Learning for Work homepage. 

By having a strong set of essential skills, individuals have a set of attributes that can help them to transfer and transition between sectors and industries.

Andrew Barton, Senior Operations Manager of Learning for Work
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