The gap between the skills people need to thrive and the educational and career opportunities available to them

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Thoughts on the launch of @ ukEdge’s 9e Skills Shortage Bulletin

On October 21, Edge hosted the official launch of our 9th Skills Shortage Bulletin.

With experience in predicting issues ranging from supply chain shortages to sustainability within the education system, Edge Newsletters have become an industry mainstay for policy makers and education professionals.

Their ideas are also essential in driving Edge’s work – the issues discussed have a fundamental impact on our mission to make education relevant.

Why do we make it relevant?

How is the labor market evolving?

We welcomed five panelists, all of them valuable contributors to our Newsletters.

The five panelists were:

  1. Kathleen Henehan (Senior Research and Policy Analyst, Resolution Foundation),
  2. Laura Burley (Public Affairs Officer and Learning Ambassador, Open University), and
  3. Lauren Mistry (Director of Strategy, Impact and Communications, Youth Employment UK),
  4. Joysy John (CEO, 01 Founders) and
  5. Kat Emms, Edge’s own principal investigator

Job availability has increased, but job quality remains a problem

Chairing the debate, Olly Newton began by probing two dominant narratives around youth skills:

First, youth unemployment is lower than expected following the pandemic – cause for celebration. Second, long-term negative impacts are to be expected on these same young people.

So what is correct? The answer, according to Kathleen Henehan (Resolution Foundation), is both. Interventions such as the leave scheme have minimized youth unemployment.

However, people of all ages – especially those with lower-level qualifications and in areas with a shortage of jobs – are likely to feel the longer-term effects of the pandemic. In short, the availability of jobs has increased, but the quality of jobs remains a problem.

Fundamental gap between youth support services and their ability to access them

Lauren Mistry (Youth Employment UK) added that her organization’s most recent youth voice survey revealed a fundamental gap between support services for young people and their perceived ability to access them.

For example, “only 37% of young people who were or had been NEET considered going to the employment office,” she explained. “They considered it a fair place to make money. Many said they weren’t so desperate yet. At the same time, the survey also showed that young people wanted more professional support in person. Obviously, then, there is a disconnect here.

More support for SMEs is an absolute necessity

Laura Burley (Open University) highlighted another major gap between government policy and its implementation, this time with regard to small businesses (SMEs).

“We are a nation of SMEs”, Laura said, “Yet all policy interventions are aimed at large corporations with the capacity to advocate and work with government. SMEs do not have the time to engage in pioneering learning or to go to number 10 to discuss the issues on the ground.

This is a problem because, of all companies, SMEs rely the most on learning to develop their talents.

Based on this, Kat Emms (Edge) noted that SMEs make up the majority of businesses in the digital and construction sectors. She pointed to another gap, this time between the expectations of these companies and their ability to deliver.

“There is a huge push, for example, for the renovation of houses”, Kat said. “But construction workers don’t have the skills to do this. We need motivation to improve or retrain them. SMEs don’t have the time or the money to send people for courses – it’s not a priority.

With 96% of companies that have worked with apprentices in the past year and plan to continue or expand in this field, increased support for SMEs is therefore absolutely essential.

Basic employability and life skills

More generally, Olly wondered if the current education system offered basic employability and life skills? Joysy John, CEO of the 01 Founders public-private partnership, which offers free training and guaranteed employment opportunities for software engineers, doesn’t think so.

The competitive and responsible school system is not conducive to the training of these kinds of skills, Joysy said:

“The education system was put in place 150 years ago. It was good when we were industrialized, but the world is different now.

“The education system is not prepared for the digital age, nor to give people the skills to collaborate and solve problems. The greatest skill the education system could teach is learning to learn. Today’s knowledge has a lifespan. ”

Lauren elaborated on this point, saying that if young people believe they know what skills they need, they need to be guided to understand how to apply those skills in different contexts:

Canvas - 3 months in the post button announcement

“Young people like to learn and are ready to work. They are excited about their future. The majority even know what kind of career they want to get into, but there is a trick to learning these skills that we are not giving them.

Future hopes and expectations

And what about future hopes and expectations?

Kathleen reiterated the need to remain vigilant about the long-term impacts of the pandemic. Laura conveyed the need for more government support for SMEs. Likewise, Kat felt that the government must honor its £ 90million funding pledge for the development of the arts and creation in secondary schools. And Joysy predicted a growing need for green skills and an increase in roles around mental health.

How well these views hold, only our tenth skills report will tell!

Susan Higgins, Communications Manager, The Edge Foundation


Skills shortage in the UK economy

“Young people don’t know what skills are expected of them, they don’t know what skills they already have and they don’t think that employers are offering them quality opportunities. Youth voice census 2021

21 October 2021: Over the years, Edge’s Skills Shortage Newsletters have highlighted the gap between the skills people need to thrive and the education and career opportunities available to them.

Our 9th newsletter brings together research on a wide range of questions:

  • advocate for sustainability in our education system, the benefits of strengthening our creative industries,
  • the penalties that young people face in the labor market, and
  • the difficulties encountered by older workers in retraining and moving to different jobs.

As you might expect, Covid-19 is at the forefront as we watch where our economy is heading after the pandemic.

Alice Barnard100x100“As we enter the post-pandemic era, English politicians of all stripes are finally making the connection between education, skills and the future of the UK economy.

“Our work has highlighted the skills mismatch for years, but our warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

“If Boris Johnson wants a highly skilled, well paid and highly productive economy, he must act now by transforming and properly financing our education system. “- Edge CEO, Alice Barnard

Key points of the report:

  • Only 9.9% of young people are confident that they can access quality work where they live. (Youth voice census 2021)
  • At a time of rising unemployment, a third of Britons (34%) want to change careers. (City & Guilds Group and Burning Glass Technologies)
  • Skills shortages in AI and the digital sector reflect pipeline problems in schools. Fewer students choose to study ICT at GCSE, while schools lack the resources to invest in digital skills training and equipment. (Institute of learning and work 2021)
  • In addition to ‘support for environmental jobs’, young people also want’ more time spent learning in and about nature ‘and’ government, employers, businesses, schools and charities are giving more. attention to the needs of young people and the environment ”. (Our Bright Future, Nash 2020)
  • By 2025, the creative industries could create 300,000 new jobs, rebounding from the impact of Covid-19 and surpassing pre-pandemic employment levels. Again, creative subjects are on the decline in schools due to the tight curriculum supported by EBacc. (Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, July 2021)

All of this adds further to the weight of evidence behind Edge’s mission to Make education relevant.

If we are to properly prepare young people for the future of work, the government must replace EBacc and Progress 8 with a truly broad and balanced program, Rethinking assessment to value a wider range of skills than just memorizing facts and reverse cuts detrimental to BTEC.


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