The Skills Imperative 2035: Rethinking skills gaps and solutions

Luke Bocock, Juan Manuel Del Pozo Segura and Jude Hillary

13 June 2024

Rethinking skills gaps and solutions is the fourth working paper to be published by The Skills Imperative 2035 programme, a five-year research programme funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The main report is accompanied by two Technical Supplements.

Previous research for the NFER-led Skills Imperative 2035: Essential skills for tomorrow's workforce, suggests the labour market will continue to change, both in terms of the jobs that exist and the skills that are needed to do those jobs.

In our previous working paper, we identified a set of skills that are intensively utilised across the labour market today, but which will be in even greater demand in 2035. We call these ‘Essential Employment Skills’ (EES). They are communication, collaboration, problem-solving, organising, planning and prioritising work, creative thinking and information literacy. These skills are growing in importance across the labour market and are also most intensively utilised in the occupations that are expected to grow their share of UK employment by 2035.

Rethinking skills gaps and solutions builds on this prior research by quantifying the current availability of EES amongst the population, by measuring the skills gaps that exist between the EES people possess and the skills requirements of their jobs, and by exploring how these skills gaps might change between now and 2035.

Key Findings

  • 13 per cent of workers in 2023 have ‘substantial’ EES skills deficiencies – meaning the skills requirements of their jobs surpass the skills they possess - which may be jeopardising their ability to fulfil their job requirements effectively.
  • Nearly one in five workers in managerial jobs (e.g. HR managers and directors), professional jobs (e.g. accountants) and associate professional occupations (e.g. engineering technicians) have substantial EES skills deficiencies. 
  • The number of workers in England with ‘substantial’ EES deficiencies may grow from 3.7 million workers in 2023 up to seven million workers in 2035.
  • Self-report data indicates that 14 per cent of workers have substantial EES under-utilisation – that is, the skills they possess are higher than those required to do their jobs. Our analysis shows that skills under-utilisation is more widespread among jobs such as skilled trades, sales, customer services and administration. Tapping into these latent skills will become increasingly important for employers in the future. 

 Supplementary reports

Technical Supplement Part A - Analyses and Results
Technical Supplement Part B - Instrument Development