Why the Skills Gap needs our Immediate Attention

June 15, 2017 | Activate Learning | 2 min read

By Tony Glass



I’m thinking people waking up in the ocean or on the top of a 130 foot crane in central London and wondering how in the world they got there.

I think we can all agree that sleepwalking is dangerous and a frightening reminder that human behaviour is often illogical and unpredictable.

The latest news coming from the OECD finds 16-24 year olds from England and Northern Ireland are ranked in the bottom four for numeracy and literacy skills. In other words, when it comes to core skills, young people in the UK are lagging well behind their European peers, prompting the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to say that this situation is causing the UK to “sleepwalk into a low-value economy.”

What does this mean?

It means that the gap between the skills the workplace is demanding and the skills workers possess is huge and only growing bigger which is understandably making CEO’s, employers, the UK government, schools, and just about everybody very nervous.

And rightly so. Remember sleepwalking into anything is never a good idea, or situation to be in.

Let me put this in some context.

Research by Engineering UK found an additional 1.8M engineers and technically qualified people are needed by 2025. Currently there is a 20,000-a-year shortfall in the number of these people produced by Britain’s education system.

Soon, we could find ourselves in the impossible Catch-22 scenario where we will have jobs that can’t be filled, and people without jobs.

So why is this happening?

Does it simply boil down to money?

Well, new research from Bersin by Deloitte shows that spending in the United Kingdom on learning and development (L&D) initiatives rose 11% between 2014 and 2015 to an average of £1,068 per learner.

So, no money isn’t necessarily the answer. Or at least, not the only answer.

How then do we solve this problem?

Is it to promote technical education, something advocated by the chancellor, Philip Hammond? The Apprenticeship Levy and programme, which we’ve spoken about before, is part of the solution.

However, even that solution doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

Goldman Sachs has reported that even its prestigious brand is often unable to convince university-obsessed parents that its apprenticeships are worth having.

For now, the immediate concern is to make L&D more widely available.

And we need to ensure that the training offered is not only relevant, comprehensive and good quality; but it equips learners with the necessary skills.

Tony Glass is the General Manager and VP of Sales for Skillsoft EMEA.