What can we do to close the skills gap?

Enter the global skills gap. Nothing new, the lack of specialist skills has been recognised as a global economic threat for some years now. Global suggests that the problem is out there, across the shores, certainly far away from Nottingham. Wrong! Businesses right here in Nottingham are being affected by the shortage of key skills just as significantly as those across the globe. That means that Nottingham’s potential for economic prosperity is threatened unless we collectively take up arms to overcome it.

The skills gap is a result of multiple factors. During the recession many organisations slashed their training budgets and reduced their intake of graduates and apprenticeships meaning fewer people received the training they needed. In addition, not enough emphasis was placed by business leaders on strategic workforce planning so not enough was done about recruiting and upskilling people for the future. The education system also plays apart – it has been noted in the press recently as being glacial in pace in its  ability to transform and align itself with current and future business requirements, meaning the younger generation are emerging from schools and further education establishments without the specialist skills needed to keep up with current demand.

The skills gap mainly exists in specialist industries such as IT, technology and engineering although it’s worth noting Professional services such as solicitors and accountancy firms are also suffering. Interestingly, it is the “softer” skills which are also significantly in massive decline. Businesses have identified creativity, adaptability and interpersonal skills as being critical for growth but sadly lacking amongst candidates.

So what does this mean for us, the people of Nottingham? There are plenty of opportunities to help boost economic growth in our area. Nottingham’s enterprise zone and the Creative Quarter are just two examples of how education and business are coming together to form a foundation from which to innovate and grow – which means our city is a prime location for developing the skills so in demand! So the foundation is laid but what can businesses do to capture the skills required and what can individuals do to put themselves in line for new career opportunities.

For the Business

  1. Get friendly with the competition. It might sound daft collaborating with the competition but where skills gaps exist and budget is lean, come together alongside local education providers to create learning programmes that ensure the right skills and attitude is being developed to plug gaps locally.
  2. Collaborate with Educators. Work alongside local education providers to ensure project work is contemporary and adds value; be open to work experience and internships to raise the awareness and knowledge of your specialist skills.
  3. Challenge the norm. Be open to bringing skilled older workers and skilled women returning to work on flexible contracts instead of aiming for the traditional 9-5 worker.
  4. Map your skills. understand what skills and traits are possessed by your high performers and develop them in others or recruit if necessary. Ensure you know what skills you require to achieve your strategy and provide the necessary learning and development opportunities
  5. Go Global. Bring in the skills externally if you have to, but exploit the opportunities this brings through access to new markets, language skills and culture awareness.
  6. Modernise recruitment. Many businesses, such as Google, are moving away from the traditional CV as a measure of ability to using techniques to screen for traits recognised with high performance.

For you the individual

  1. Sharpen your soft side. Having the ability to communicate, build rapport, work in a team, manage emotions and act professionally are critical for business success. Reflect on these skills and put actions in place to develop
  2. Get creative. Creativity is essential within business as it fuels innovation. If you have particular ability to develop new concepts which take into account the bigger strategic picture then your skills are needed.
  3. Be proactive. if you have the skills but been out of work for some time due to retirement or starting a family, put yourself back in the market place as more employers are becoming open to flexible working.
  4. Get technical. Find your industry of interest and develop technical expertise. Engineering, and IT are essential across most industries and in demand, so developing specific skills in these disciplines will be helpful.
  5. Embrace technology. Being able to operate within a high tech and ever changing environment is vital for the future.
  6. Get global. Having a specialist skill such as being able to talk another language such as mandarin will set you apart from others. Embrace opportunities to develop your cultural knowledge and ability to interact with new markets.
  7. Specialise. By specialising your technical skills within a specific industry, for example the energy industry, may well sky rocket your job opportunities globally!
  8. Start at the bottom. Apprenticeships are a great way of gaining current training and the right skills to progress into successful careers. Not everyone is degree material and in the age of the “skills gap” getting the right skills far outweighs a fancy qualification.
  9. STEM. Don’t avoid the science, technology, English and maths subjects. They’re a critical foundation for any career.

In the age where change is constant, businesses and job seekers young and old need to rethink their approach to employment. Outdated business culture, old fashioned learning styles and archaic job seeking methods have to be shaken up to deliver what our world today requires. The skills gap screams of opportunity and it will be the proactive individuals willing to do things that bit differently who will come forward, plug the gap and reap the reward.