With more employers preferring essential skills to specialist skills when recruiting candidates, we’re helping education providers and employers develop an understanding of what these skills are, and how workers can build them in the workplace.

The situation

There is growing recognition that the development of essential or ‘employability’ skills, such as teamwork, presenting and problem-solving, are crucial in preparing young people to make the transition from the classroom to the workplace. They are also critical to enabling workers to progress and adapt if necessary, as they re-skill or upskill in response to changes in technology, work, or employment.

Although essential skills are fundamental to people working effectively together in organisations (as well as to how they engage with customers and other stakeholders), there’s currently no universal framework to enable education providers and employers to have a common understanding of these skills, nor is there help for workers to build these skills for the modern workplace.

CIPD viewpoint

Recent CIPD research found that, when recruiting, an increasing majority of employers prefer candidates with ‘employability’ skills and a broad understanding of their sector, rather than those specialist skills and knowledge required for specific vacancies. It is critical that young people can demonstrate these when entering the workplace and that individuals are supported to develop these skills throughout their working lives.

Currently, there is no universal framework to enable both education providers and employers to have a common understanding/definition of these skills, nor is there help for workers present and future to build these skills for the modern workplace. Numerous reports and frameworks have been presented by a range of organisations in an attempt to address this problem, resulting in multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions and solutions. This has created a confusing and fragmented landscape for employers, young people, employees and educators alike.

That is why the CIPD, along with a number of influential and respected organisations, have come together as the Essential Skills Taskforce to champion a united approach in developing a clear, measurable and authoritative framework to define the assessment and development of essential skills, and to provide individuals and employers with the tools they need to succeed in the future workplace.

Actions for Government

  • Support the work of the Essential Skills Taskforce (established by the CIPD, the Gatsby Foundation, EY Foundation, The Skills Builder Partnership, the Careers and Enterprise Company and BITC), which is developing a universal, essential skills framework that has broad recognition and buy-in from both employers and education and training providers.

  • Government should ensure core essential skills are embedded in a consistent manner across all T-Level routes and within apprenticeship standards.

Recommendations for employers

  • Design interview questions that allow hiring managers to understand the extent to which applicants possess key essential skills.

  • Ensure that competency and development frameworks include the core essential skills required for the modern workplace and that workplace training helps develop and embed these.

  • Ensure people managers encourage and enable employees to use these soft skills, such as problem solving, creativity and teamwork by providing appropriate support and autonomy.

CIPD resources and references

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