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Skills & Employability Summit 2023

We were pleased to be represented at this year’s Skills & Employability Summit. Experts from across the sector, including Skills Builder’s Founder and CEO Tom Ravenscroft, had their say on how to support upskilling, create skills opportunities, and how businesses have adapted in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic environment.

Skills Builder was invited to speak alongside:

  • Becci Newton (chair) (Director - Public Policy Research, Institute for Employment Studies)
  • Elena Magrini (Head of Global Research, Lightcast)
  • Faiza Khan MBE (Director of Corporate Affairs, City and Guilds)
  • Heather Sheldon (Head of Funding and Partnerships, Pathway Group)
  • Kevin Rowan (Head of Organising Services, Trade Unions Congress)

Employers’ role in building skills

Employers are undoubtedly one of the key determiners of success in professional development, with many beginning to shift more heavily toward transferable, essential skills.  At the event, Elena Magrini, Lightcast, and Faiza Khan, City and Guilds, made the case for transferable skills as a crucial aspect for individuals’ long-term success in the labour market.

Tom Ravenscroft highlighted that building those skills consistently is essential if people are to be successful: “research shows that people who are successful have a portfolio of skills that include basic, technical and essential. It’s about breaking down the specific steps of each skill to actually support people to learn these skills, which have historically not been explicitly taught.”

One of the ideas put forward at the Summit was that employer recognition could be an incentive for investing in employee development. City and Guilds cited the Princess Royal Training Awards that they present to organisations with outstanding workplace training programmes. At Skills Builder we work closely to champion employer partners to gain Impact Levels for their programmes or Excellence Marks for their overall organisational approach, and make sure we support them to achieve this. 

In a tight labour market it pays to invest in your organisation’s own talent if you are to be successful, a view shared by Elena Magrini, Lightcast. And in good news for employers, investing in skills could actually save you money and lead to a happier workforce. Recent research demonstrated the effect of higher essential skills versus higher pay in terms of job satisfaction. An individual increasing their skill score by around 2 points would make them as satisfied at work as gaining a £55,000 pay rise. 

Long-term, specific and consistent

Faiza Khan of City and Guilds supports driving a national strategy that drives local inclusive growth, and a full commitment to lifelong learning. She argued that lifelong learning entitlement needs to be given greater investment in the lower skill levels and to ensure that learning meets the life stages that people are at. Our recent Essential Skills Tracker 2023 made the same point. It showed that for those over 40, at which point skills begin to ‘decay’, employers investing in quality opportunities for skills development actually reverses the decline and can make lifelong learning a reality.

That same research highlighted how important essential skills are for staff development. 83% of workers would like more opportunities to build essential skills, 92% believe that they should form part of professional development, and to top it off over half (56%) of working age adults in the UK would go as far as leaving their job for better essential skills development opportunities. 

But even when opportunities to develop skills are available – it is often challenging to describe what these skills really are and how they can be measured. With lots of ways to reference skills, such as ‘soft skills’, ‘key skills’ or ‘core skills’, Kevin Rowan, Trade Union Congress, made the case for consistency around the language of skills. 

For Skills Builder and our partners in business, education and impact organisations the impact of a consistent, shared language is key. The Skills Builder Universal Framework takes those eight essential skills – names them clearly and breaks them down into 16 learnable, measurable steps from absolute beginner to mastery. A consistent language allows the Universal Framework to be applied across educational settings, demographics and sectors.

Local, transformational skills journeys - from education to employment

Employers looking to engage with young people entering the job market would do well to look at two focuses that came up at the Summit: recruitment based on skills, and local recruitment to meet local skills needs.

“Skills Builder partners have a touchpoint with 87% of schools and colleges in the UK, where those students are getting opportunities to develop not only the essential skills themselves, but the value of them and the language used around them. Many recruiters are already thinking about this when creating job descriptions – using the language of essential skills to bring people into the job market” said Tom Ravenscroft, Skills Builder.

Local employers too should be part of the conversation, inspiring young people and offering aspirational opportunities in the local area, suggested Kevin Rowan, Trade Unions Congress, and Elena Magrini, Lightcast. Camden Council’s STEAM initiative stands out as a leading example of how local governance and employers can collaborate to provide work opportunities to people entering the workplace in the Camden borough. The speakers agreed that this requires both employers and national strategy to best leverage, either through local pathways or greater investment in those with lower skill levels for a real lifelong learning entitlement.

Embedding a structured approach to skills 

A range of employers have applied a structured approach to skills in order to boost their recruitment, staff development and outreach.

To take one example, Thames Water has used the Universal Framework with a recruitment focus for Apprentices. Working together we used the simple language of the Framework to draw a wider talent pool, effectively breaking down complicated competencies. Candidates could also access tools and resources to help them identify their essential skills before interview. The Framework steps formed their assessment criteria and provided guidance for hiring managers.

If you’re an employer not currently working with us, and think you can benefit from embedding the Skills Builder approach in your business, or within a specific programme, download a prospectus, book a free consultation, or browse our website to find out more about what we do. 

Would your learners enjoy building skills on a challenge day?

Take your learners on a journey of essential skills development through practical and engaging teaching like challenge days. Explore the possibilities on the funded Global Accelerator programme for educators worldwide – apply now.