Last reviewed 19 May 2022

Most employers (85%) have skills shortages in their workforce or expect to have shortages in the next five years, according to new research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) which found that digital skills and problem solving skills are the main problem areas.

Concerns around skills shortages were found to be widespread 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.

However, despite the skills struggle, in general employers show 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.

Asked about curriculum changes that would better serve the needs of their organisation, 21% ranked young people getting more practical work experience as the change that would have the greatest impact.

Weaving digital skills throughout all subjects was next, ranking first for 17%, while making Maths and English compulsory got the vote of 12%.

Kevin Ellis, Chairman and Senior Partner at PwC UK, said: “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.”

Over half of employers (56%) have increased the number of apprentices they hire since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy five years ago.

When asked what would incentivise them to hire more, new courses and qualifications that are better aligned to their organisation’s skills needs is the top-ranked option, followed by relaxation of the requirement for 20% off-the-job training.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

Employers should take into consideration the lack of experience and/or qualifications of younger workers when completing recruitment exercises and not automatically dismiss individuals who don’t fit the traditional job requirements.

Businesses may be losing out on ideal candidates because they don’t have the degree certificate typically associated with that role, despite them having relevant experience and increased motivation and desire to succeed than their older counterparts.

With widespread labour shortages negatively impacting businesses across the UK, many are missing a trick by disengaging with younger workers. Organisations can also benefit from offering work experience and internship programmes to build long-term relationships and be involved in the shaping of young careers.