Why Essential Skills Are Crucial In Supporting Local Economies

Issue 96

Andy Barton, Senior Operations Manager at the educational charity NCFE, explains why developing transferrable skills such as critical thinking, confidence and resilience are essential for regions in adapting to changing localised workforce needs.

Every region in the UK is facing its own economic challenges and, as the cost-of-living crisis continues, the issues are seemingly becoming even more stark.

These challenges may be due to one of – or more likely, a mix off – educational attainment, a lack of access to suitable training and learning provision, transport infrastructure challenges, poor social and economic environments, a lack of innovation and investment, and the cost-ofliving issue itself.

Even though there are some common sector skills gaps (including digital, green skills, and health and social care) identified through Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), there’s one gap that’s linked to all sectors – essential skills, also known as ‘work-ready skills’, ‘transferable skills’ or ’employability skills.’

Why essential skills are key to navigating change

Employers require individuals who are ready to work with practical and transferable essential life skills, enabling them to learn and adapt to the specific needs of the employer.

Essential skills include communication, problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking, time management, confidence, resilience, and the application of these skills within the workplace. They can also include basic digital skills, such as the use of Microsoft packages.

By having a strong set of essential skills, individuals have attributes that can help them to transfer and transition between sectors and industries. They can help to prepare individuals to strengthen their CVs, as well as to subsequently enter or re-enter the workforce if they have taken time away.

These essential skills are also what can drive a region through periods of change. For example, if there’s a downturn due to a key employer or sector moving away, it’s important to identify and utilise the transferable skills that individuals have to diversify the employability offer and fill the skills gaps that remain. This also allows people to retain their place as valuable members of their community.

LSIPs, essential skills and finding solutions

At present, there are clear difficulties for employers across all sectors in recruiting the right people at the right time. This issue is exacerbated due to the lack of clear progression opportunities outside of mainstream educational choices, the population decline in people of working age, and increased economic inactivity.

Adults (individuals who are 19+, but more specifically, those who are 24+) face the biggest challenge because of a confusing and shrinking adult funding landscape. This does not just apply to adults who are out of work, but also those who are in employment and need to upskill to stay abreast of changing technology – as well as those who may be looking to change careers.

At NCFE, we’re committed to supporting the plans for addressing local skills needs, ensuring no individual is left behind when it comes to education and training. We’re actively involved in the creation of LSIPs, which have been developed to provide an agreed set of actionable priorities that employers, providers and other stakeholders in a local area can get behind.

By ensuring we can identify and address the essential skills required to tackle specific skills gaps within each of the LSIPs, then we can work together to ensure there’s a strong foundation to strengthen the local economy across our regions.

Building a short, medium, and long-term plan so that a sufficient number of people are equipped with the correct skills at the time jobs become available within their area will be key to this.

To discover more about NCFE’s work-based learning qualifications and education products that help individuals to enter or re-enter the workplace, visit the Learning for Work homepage.

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