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Employers have ‘profound’ concern over skills shortages

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Most employers have recognised a skills shortage in their workforce, or expect to have shortages in the next five years, according to new research from PwC. 

The firm found that concerns around skills shortages were “profound”, with 33% experiencing a current shortage in core business skills such as teamwork, leadership, relationship-building and communication skills, while a further 41% expected to have shortages in the year ahead. 

According to PwC, there is also a “real need” for capacity building for the net zero transition as over three quarters (76%) of employers already have a shortage of the skills needed to support the transition to net zero or expect to within the next 12 months (36% and 40%, respectively). 

Nonetheless, it found that employers generally showed “broad positivity” about the education system, with around 70% of respondents agreeing that it prepares young people well for work, life, and to work at organisations like theirs. 

Employers were more divided on potential curriculum changes that would better serve the needs of their organisation, however, while 21% ranked young people getting more practical work experience as the curriculum change that would have the greatest impact. 

Weaving digital skills throughout all subjects followed, ranking first for 17%. A greater focus on career options, greater focus on practical application of subjects, and making Maths and English compulsory followed – each were first choice for around 12-13% of respondents. 

Only 5% of respondents ranked employers having more input in the curriculum as the most impactful potential change. 

Employers were broadly satisfied with the current assessment system, with almost 70% agreeing the current system helps young people to develop both social skills and problem solving / independent thinking. 

Around two thirds (65%) thought assessments prepared young people for the type of work their organisation does and 73% thought it accurately tests academic ability. 

When asked what would be the top benefit of reimagining education to better meet their organisations needs, one in five (19%) ranked being able to contribute to a more resilient UK economy or being able to contribute to a more socially inclusive UK economy as the top-ranking benefit. 

PwC said it was clear that employers “have a huge appetite for clarity and collaboration on pathways from education to employment”, with 87% saying their organisation would benefit, and 85% saying employers and education providers should work together on this.

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC UK, said: “Exams have their place but they can be unduly influenced by someone’s background and the opportunities given to them. They’re not the best measure of potential. Employers will miss out on talent if they measure it through one lens alone. Assessment needs to be more inclusive.

“Basic numeracy and literacy should be a given. We also need other skills that stand the test of time, such as empathy, resilience and agility. You can’t predict all the jobs that will exist in the future but you can predict the mindset needed to adapt and be ready.”

Writes Heather Sandlin in Accountancy Today(Edited)