The skills gap is a very real problem for UK businesses. By 2030, estimates show that 20% of employees could be significantly under-skilled for their roles.
The skills gap is the difference between the skills required to complete a task in the workplace and the skills available to your company (i.e. from your employees).
Research shows that 40% of UK employees don’t have the right qualifications for their current roles which can leave them without the skills and confidence they need to succeed.
How does the skills gap impact business?
When there is a skills gap in a business, many jobs can go uncompleted, completed to a low quality, or completed at a higher cost and time than necessary. Businesses with significant skills gaps are likely to
The general skills gap across the UK can also make it harder for businesses to recruit for roles with specialist skillsets since the pool of suitable candidates is much smaller.
The biggest skills gaps faced in businesses today are often in general ‘workplace skills’ rather than sector-specific qualifications and knowledge.
Technology is increasingly used across businesses to support processes, deliver services, and manage the day-to-day operations of the organisation. However, up to two-thirds of UK employees are significantly lacking in digital skills. In some instances, a lack of digital skills, such as internet safety, can lead to financial, reputational, and regulatory damage to the business.
Given how rapidly and frequently technology changes, it is no surprise that what employees may have once learned during a formal qualification is no longer relevant. Many employers forgo digital skills training, assuming that employees will naturally learn the skills they need through using the technology or take the initiative themselves to learn about it. This attitude only widens the skills gap, especially for less tech-savvy employees who don’t know what skills they need to learn.
Managers are essential to any growing business but many don’t receive official training. Often managers are promoted or recruited based on their industry-specific skills and experience, not on their capabilities to manage employees, budgets and resources.
Without management training, over 2 million employees will lack at least one core management skill such as decision-making, communication, or leadership. This means that employees can be mismanaged or resources incorrectly used, which ultimately leads to poor performance from the business overall.
More than a quarter of adults aged 16-65 lack basic functional skills (English and maths). Employees often worry about admitting to poor functional skills and instead adopt coping strategies rather than asking for help because of the fear of losing their job, not being promoted, or being seen as ineffective by colleagues and managers. The problem can be overlooked as workers adopt coping strategies such as relying on colleagues, avoiding tasks or taking longer than necessary to check and re-check emails, reports or data.
The best way to identify the skills gap in your business is to conduct a skills gap analysis.
1. Outline your company objectives
2. Breakdown the skills needed in each role to achieve objectives
3. Assess which skills employees already have from your breakdown
4. Anything left on your breakdown is your skills gap
When assessing employee skills, you must find an objective way to assess them to avoid any bias from your employees or assessor. It’s also worth tracking to what extent an employee is skilled in one area e.g. the ability to write and send emails is a much lower level of digital skill than the ability to write HTML code.
Once you have identified what skills gap you have in your business, you can start working on bridging it. There are 2 main ways that you can bridge the skills gap: bringing in people who already have the skills you need; developing new skills in your existing employees.
Recruiting new members of staff who already have the skills you need in the business is likely one of the first thoughts many employers have once they identify a gap. However, as mentioned earlier, the existence of a skills gap in the general UK workforce can often make it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to hire candidates with advanced skillsets.
An alternative, and one of our recommended solutions, is to recruit an apprentice with the attitude or general workplace skills you need and train them in the industry-specific skills they’ll need for your business. No matter what level of skill and experience a new recruit has, there will always be some level of training or adaptation needed to familiarise them with your processes and business practices so why not invest in skills that you can tailor to your business needs from the start?
Upskilling your existing members of staff can be a more cost and time-efficient way to bridge the skills gap in your business than recruitment. With a solid understanding of your business processes and requirements, employees will be able to focus on developing the specific skills they are lacking.
Not only that, companies that focus on training internally often see an improvement in employee morale, employee acquisition, and brand reputation.
Short courses can help your employees upskill in specific areas that will improve their overall workplace capabilities.
We offer a short course in Functional Skills that is suitable for employees looking to improve their English and maths skills. Looking for more workplace short courses? Take a look at short courses offered by our sister-organisation MOL Learn.
Another way to upskill existing members of staff is through apprenticeships. As well as having the benefit of pre-existing knowledge of your business, using apprenticeships with your existing members of staff enables you to develop the wider skillsets tailored to your business – either in general workplace skills (e.g. management apprenticeships) or industry-specific skills (e.g. engineering apprenticeships).
You may also be eligible for apprenticeship funding meaning that there would be little to no additional cost to the business for upskilling.