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Workers with strongest transferable skills able to move into jobs with the brightest future

Posted: 22nd January 2018

– Advances in technology will require more focus on skills through education and training than ever before
– Reform of company training & hiring practices will be needed, with individuals being open-minded to multiple careers

Employment within 44% of occupations in the UK is declining, according to analysis by Deloitte. More than three million jobs have been added to the UK economy in the past 16 years, but employment is falling in 160 occupations, while it is increasing in 206.

Deloitte’s report, the third in its Power Up series looking at the key forces shaping the UK economy, found that occupations where employment is increasing are typically those in which softer, transferable skills are more prominent. Occupations requiring a higher level of skills such as active listening, complex problem solving and the ability to exercise judgement have seen a net increase of 1.9m jobs between 2001 and 2016. Occupations typically requiring a lower level of such skills have seen a net decrease of 530,000 jobs.

Angus Knowles-Cutler, vice chairman and senior partner of Deloitte UK, said: “Major shifts are occurring in the UK workforce. Businesses are facing pressure to invest in technology and revise their operating models and occupations characterised by manual, clerical, administrative and repetitive tasks are being disrupted. This is causing many workers to fear that their jobs will be displaced and that they may not have the skills required to find alternative employment.

“With rapid progress in technology, today’s students may face very different working practices. It is crucial that before students leave education they understand employers’ changing expectations and are equipped to meet them. In an online discussion of over 350 educators, recruiters and experienced workers, the ability to work alone, be self-sufficient and build relationships digitally were identified as the most important skills for workers in the future. In contrast, the ability to work in a team was recognised as being far less important in the future workplace. 4”

Alternative career paths

Our analysis offers a different scenario to the doom and gloom of technology-fuelled mass unemployment. Throughout history, advances in technology have led to more and better-paid jobs and so far in the 21st century, things have been no different. We know that the type of jobs we do and the way we work will change but our latest research shows that as transferable skills are more highly valued in growth occupations, opportunities will exist for workers to transition between industries and occupations. As a result businesses and workers will need to be more flexible when considering candidates and job opportunities respectively, while policymakers should focus more on developing skills rather than knowledge through education and training.

The length of time for which knowledge remains relevant is declining rapidly and the concept of a single career with a fixed knowledge-base will become less common. Workers will no longer be able to rely on predefined career paths. Our analysis of the five occupations that have lost the most jobs since 2001 found that they all possessed transferable skills desirable in growth occupations. For example, while the number of typists and post office clerks has declined since 2001, the number of medical secretaries and teaching assistants has increased and these roles require a similar level of transferable skills.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte North West Europe, added: “For the benefits of transferable skills to be realised, employers will need to change their approach to recruitment. Traditional recruitment processes, particularly for experienced workers, tend to focus on academic achievement and sector expertise, and could overlook individuals who might be well-suited for the role but who have built up their skills in a different context.

“Similarly, employees don’t always realise how valuable and relevant their skills are for other jobs, allowing them to reinvent themselves. As disruption gathers pace, workers will need to draw on their transferable skills, and plan for multiple careers.

“Challenging preconceptions about career paths and which workers hold valuable skills could also have a positive impact on productivity and help the UK workforce build resilience in the face of significant change. Employers need to create pathways for workers to transition between industries and roles. It will also offer an opportunity to widen the pool of talent available to businesses.

“Government and educators will need to work with businesses to meet the aims set out in the recently published Careers Strategy to familiarise young people with different places of work. Exposure to different challenges and different working environments from an early age will help young people build a strong foundation of transferable skills, as well as the confidence to apply them in many settings.”

Regional differences – Scotland

Across all regions, there are only marginal differences in the proficiency of core transferable skills which offers reason to be optimistic about improving regional equality. In Scotland, key findings show that:

• the average probably of automation is 37%, slightly higher than the UK average (35%), though equal to Wales and slightly lower than Northern Ireland;

• the percentage share of overall job growth is slightly lower than the percentage share of its population (-1%);

• the average salary in Scotland (£27,026) is lower than the UK average (£28,306), although it is marginally higher than all other regions except London (£41,111) and the South East (£29,534).

Stephen Williams, practice senior partner at Deloitte Scotland said:

“Although relatively marginal, due to the present industrial landscape, the probability that a significant proportion of jobs will become automated is slightly higher in Scotland than the UK on average. Combined with a lower share of job growth compared to others parts of the UK, there is some cause for concern about how we future-proof our workforce to create inclusive growth.

“In response, policymakers, educators, and businesses must consider how to prepare workers for technological change and start challenging preconceptions around traditional, static career paths. Workers should be encouraged to develop transferable skill sets which are continually updated in line with evolving market demands and it’s critical they are supported in doing so.

“Dramatic structural changes in financial services and the oil and gas industry illustrate why workers in Scotland need to be flexible and adaptable to unanticipated changes. Employees must be ready to take advantage of emerging opportunities in areas such as Fintech, A.I and software development, and the sectors that support and, in turn, will grow from the development of these technologies and industries.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, strategic adviser to Deloitte UK added: “In order to unlock potential in the regions, there is also a need for investment in infrastructure and to promote and support new growth industries right across the U.K.

“How the UK economy responds to the challenges of a changing labour market and the requirement to strengthen our competitiveness has never been more important. How we focus more on place will in my view become increasingly important in the future.”

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