The Skills Imperative 2035: Essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce

NFER is leading a strategic research partnership, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, to identify the essential employment skills people will need for work by 2035.

New technologies, coupled with major demographic and environmental changes, are predicted to transform employment over the coming decades. Skills such as creativity, critical thinking, team work, problem solving and resilience are likely to become increasingly important for jobs across the economy.

Without action to help young people and workers develop the right skills that will be needed in future, there may be widespread under-employment and enduring social and economic problems. This may be one of the great strategic challenges facing our country in the next 10 to 15 years.

The nature of this challenge is not yet well-understood. However, this new strategic initiative, aims to fill this gap.

The five-year research programme will:

  • identify the essential employment skills that people will need for work in the future;
  • project the demand and supply of essential employment skills for 2035, drawing on findings from a new survey of essential employment skills amongst young people and adults aged 16-65 in England;
  • establish who is most at risk of not acquiring the necessary skills and being excluded from the labour market; and examine the potential welfare implications;
  • investigate how these skills can be developed through the education system and other mechanisms.

The multi-disciplinary team led by NFER is investigating how essential employment skills can be developed through the education system and other mechanisms, identifying which groups of people are most at risk of not acquiring the necessary skills and therefore being excluded from the labour market. 

Throughout the five-year programme, NFER and its co-investigators will work with employers, policy makers, and education leaders to provide practical insights and evidence which will inform longer-term planning for how to meet future demand for essential employment skills.

A distinguished team is tackling the substantial research questions that this programme seeks to address, to inform this important strategic challenge. For more information about the research team, please see the list of our co-investigators.

Findings will be published as they emerge in a series of working papers from March 2022. We will also be holding events to discuss the findings and recommendations during the five year programme, focusing on practical insights and evidence that will inform planning for how to meet the future demand for essential employment skills.