Employers need to take “urgent action” to ensure workers have skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking in the future, a research study claims.
A review of recent research and thought leadership on the skills required in future workplaces, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Nuffield Foundation, considered skills employees need to acquire in the next 10 to 15 years.
Failure to develop skills such as these could lead to potential underemployment and social issues, the researchers claim.
Its research review found that workers with low levels of education or who work in low-skilled roles were at particular risk from automation.
It refers to existing studies that have found that around 1.5% of the manufacturing workforce in the EU has already been displaced by technology, while 22% of current workforce activities across the EU could be automated by 2030.
Although the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitisation and automation, human reasoning and interaction skills will continue to be important in health, social care and education, the researchers found.
In such a volatile market, employees will need to develop problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation skills in the coming years, as these are transferable skills that will be in high demand in the next 15 years and beyond.
The review is the first of a series of reports across a five-year research programme predicting the essential skills needs of employers and their likely supply by 2035.
The Skills Imperative 2035: Essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce, aims to identify where the skills gaps are likely to be, and establish what the implications are for the education system, as well as consider how education can reach society’s most vulnerable groups.
Jude Hillary, principal investigator and co-head of UK policy and practice at NFER said employers and educators needed to take a long-term view.
“A long term strategic plan is needed to support the development of these skills through the education system and other mechanisms to ensure that people can work and flourish in their jobs,” he said.
“This needs to be based on practical insights and evidence to inform planning on how the future demand for essential employment skills will be met.”
Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation added: “When it comes to employment skills, the evidence reviewed in this study identifies problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills as being critical in the future labour market.
“But it’s also clear that we lack a plan for how to systematically equip people with those skills… we need to address these questions about education, skills and work to ensure that all young people have the knowledge and skills they need to thrive.”