A 2020 report by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) found that given the persistent skill shortages, transferable skills from other sectors can play a huge role in helping to deliver on the £600bn infrastructure projects that are planned in the UK.
Take the example of the oil and gas sector, which has been severely impacted by the global pandemic. Thousands of jobs have been lost with price falls for both natural gas and crude oil adding to an already precarious economic backdrop. And with the UK government’s net zero commitment, the reskilling and redeployment of workers will be pivotal in meeting the demand for the opportunities being created in other sectors, such as the renewables industry.
Just what are the in demand roles and skills? The report highlights engineering and science professionals, as well as those individuals with project management and IT and digital skills across the various ECI sectors, such as nuclear and renewables. Expertise will also be required in fast developing areas such as AI, data science and cybersecurity. Government investment in educational programmes will be key to ensuring that skills gaps are narrowed.
However, these are not unique issues to engineering and construction. Many other sectors are faced with similar challenges. The theme of London Tech Week (September 2020) was on the need to retrain workers in the kind of specialist roles mentioned above so that the growing demand for digital and tech expertise can be met in the future. Tech is yet another example of a sector faced with a potential acute skills gap that needs to be addressed urgently.
A need for retraining in problem solving, time management and communications was also mentioned in the ECITB report, which isn’t surprising given the important weighting that hiring managers place on soft skills. LinkedIn analysis in 2019 found that over half of business leaders (57%) said that soft skills were more important than hard skills. The top attributes they were looking for included creativity, persuasion, collaboration and adaptability.
City & Guilds, the global leader in skills development and apprenticeships recently partnered with digital education platform FutureLearn to launch a ‘Skills Bridges’ initiative. Aimed at those who have been directly impacted by the pandemic, the programme provides candidates with the knowledge they need to make the transition into a new sector. Social care, which has over 100,000 unfilled jobs, has been the first sector to be promoted.
Despite the job losses from COVID, as we’ve seen in energy, there will be new job openings given the level of skill shortages that are affecting so many sectors. Whether reskilling or upskilling or whether considering hiring people from other industries, employers will need to tap into these transferable skills if they are to start plugging those gaps.