PwC’s latest annual CEO survey indicates that concern about the availability of key skills is second only to uncertain economic growth as an issue in the minds of UK CEOs. 83 percent of surveyed CEOs said that they were ‘somewhat’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about access to talent. These results come in the context of current UK trends, which suggest that technology will drive a shift from low-skill, routine occupations to higher-skill, agile roles, creating worrying predictions of a labour market deficit in highly skilled areas.

If current trends continue, the UK will have a total of 15 million high-skill jobs by 2022, leaving a shortage of three million high-skilled workers. According to the government’s State of the Nation report, falling demand for low-skilled individuals over the same period could see nine million people chasing just four million jobs. 

The Open University emphasises that urgent change is needed to ensure progression from low to higher skilled occupations is open to all.

Steve Hill, External Engagement Director at The Open University, comments: “As we consider what the heralded Industry 4.0 means for our future workforce needs, there is certainly encouragement from the fact that our economy is seeing growth in high-skill areas.

“But the shape of our labour force must change to meet business requirements. We need to consider fully the impact on individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole if we fail to open up opportunities for progression to those currently locked into low-skill roles. Training options which extend beyond the classroom, such as higher and degree apprenticeships, have a key part to play, since they give individuals a chance to learn relevant, work-based skills whilst earning.”

Steve comments: “Creating a high-skill workforce across the UK is key to boosting growth in all regions, particularly those that are currently suffering the severest skills shortages. By taking full advantage of the flexibility afforded by supported online learning delivery, businesses can access the highest-quality training material for their employees, no matter where they are based in the country.

“Alongside the spread of options such as the degree apprenticeship, which offer individuals a new pathway to higher skills, it is the flexibility and quality at scale that online learning can offer which will help to redress the skills mismatch our country is set to face.”