Skills of the future are ‘empathy, teamwork and resilience’, says Matthew Taylor

Architect of government’s Good Work Plan calls for a change in how we track learning and progression, at CIPD Festival of Work

The author of the government’s official review of working practices has said every individual should have a formal ‘portfolio’ tracking their skills and development, to help meet the increasingly diverse requirements of the modern economy.

Matthew Taylor, author of the Taylor Review, said the UK needed to introduce an employability framework that enabled every individual to compile a record of both formal and informal training and track human skills such as leadership, communication and empathy.

Speaking on a panel at the inaugural CIPD Festival of Work, Taylor – whose review formed the basis of the government's recent overhaul of workers’ rights – said an employability framework was one of his “more obscure” recommendations, but one of the most important.

“We talk about coding – we won’t need coding in 20 years but we are going to need empathy, we’re going to need teamwork, we’re going to need resilience,” he said.

“For me, we will really have turned the dial on quality of work in a world where everybody has a portfolio… Everyone has an account of their formal education, their informal education at work and beyond in volunteering and other things they’ve done… they can bring an account of these broader generic skills which are the key transferable skills.”

Taylor added that a skills-based framework would be most helpful to those whose jobs were most at risk. “If you’re middle-class, you’re on LinkedIn, this is your rolling commentary,” he said. “But for millions of workers, there is no sense of that and there is a sense that they’ve failed in education, they get no training at work, there’s no growth and development.”

Also speaking on the panel, Vicky Pryce, chief economic adviser for the Centre for Economics and Business Research, raised concerns that the large amount of investment in automation was replacing jobs but not improving productivity, with the retail sector being one of the worst offenders.

“We worry hugely about manufacturing – perhaps a plant closes down and loses 5,000 jobs. [But] if I’m not mistaken, something like 150,000 jobs in the retail sector went last year and almost the same number are going to happen again,” she said.

“The worrying thing is that for the economy as a whole, despite this considerable investment that’s taken place getting rid of workers and putting in machines, we haven’t seen that affect productivity. Maybe we’re useless at calculating it, but it hasn’t helped. That’s the worry – that we’re still eliminating quite good jobs, and we’re not doing anything major for the economy.”

Her views were echoed by Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, who said retraining was likely to be the largest challenge faced by businesses. “You can deal with 100 or so young people who are being re-trained, you can deal with pockets of an organisation that are changing,” she said.

“When we’re talking about hundreds of thousands – or take even 10 million is the figure that we suggested is a possibility – needing retraining, that has to be a strategic decision that a country takes, a partnership between government and business and unions and academia to make it work. And we don’t feel we’ve got that up and running.”