Three-quarters of UK workforce unsure what skills their job requires

24 Jan 2019 By Lauren Brown

Experts say better communication and L&D investment needed to combat ‘huge lack of awareness’ revealed by new study

Three quarters (75 per cent) of the UK workforce are unsure what skills their employer requires of them, according to a recent study.

The poll of 2,000 workers also found a quarter (25 per cent) did not know how to upskill themselves at work, while more than a fifth (22 per cent) did not know know what skills future jobs might require.

The results have prompted calls for employers to provide clearer information about what skills employees need, and improve access to development opportunities.

The research was conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of the Open University (OU).

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David Willett, corporate director of OU, said there was a “huge lack of awareness among UK employees” and that more needed to be done to “educate and advise employees about how they can gain new skills” 

“We know that employers are spending vast sums each year on filling these [skills] gaps,” said Willett. “But it is crucial that they take a more active role in training and developing their employees in order to cope with the evolving requirements for current and future roles and to bridge the gap between the skills on offer and job market requirements.”

One in 10 of the survey’s respondents believed the most effective way to address the skills shortage in the UK was by encouraging government, industry and educators to use clearer language when talking about the skills gap and the opportunities it might afford.

Another third (32 per cent) thought employers should provide more learning and training opportunities to ensure employees were abreast of the skills they needed both now and in the future.

Responding to the findings, CIPD skills policy advisor Lizzie Crowley said: “The fact employees don’t know what skills they need points to the need for employers to get a lot better at communicating to their workforce what skills are required to enable them to progress within their current organisation.”

“By investing in L&D, employers empower their workforce to take responsibility for their own careers,” she said.

CIPD research published in October 2018 found almost half of UK workers reported being mismatched to their roles, with 37 per cent over-skilled and 12 per cent under-skilled. More than a quarter (26 per cent) cited lack of opportunities as the biggest barrier to progression, followed by lack of confidence (14 per cent).

Mike Thompson, chief executive at SustainHR, said the nature of jobs was shifting and the OU researched highlighted a lack of awareness among UK employees of the skills they would need to succeed. “The significant gap in skills across certain industries is having a huge impact on the economy,” he said.

He added upskilling programmes, such as workplace apprenticeships, not only provided a strong return on investment for employers by addressing skills shortages but also boosted staff morale by “allowing workers to develop their careers and grow as individuals”.

A report published this week by the Institute for Employment Studies urged businesses to focus on base pay and provide clear career progression, saying productivity would only improve if employees saw a rewarding future ahead.

A separate study by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) earlier this month found businesses across all sectors faced significant and increasing difficulties in recruitment, with skills shortages exacerbated by a lack of applications from EU nationals.

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