Dan Howard, Operations Director of Learning for Work at NCFE, looks at how upskilling and reskilling our nation’s workforce is key to an economic recovery.

How Upskilling Our Workforce Can Combat the Labour Shortage

Recent Labour Market Statistics show that the UK labour market now has the lowest ever number of unemployed people per vacancy.  For the period from June to August 2021 the number of vacancies stood at 1,034,000, greater than 1 million for the first time since records began. There are currently 1.45 unemployed people per vacancy. This decrease in jobseekers applying for vacancies is positive, but conversely is leading to problems elsewhere, with significant labour shortages as companies struggle to fill roles.

Roles requiring specific skills such as HGV driving are being hardest hit, but the research shows that these labour shortages are far-reaching, affecting the whole of the UK economy.

Early indications show that we’re likely to see a lower level of redundancies than expected following furlough. Meanwhile, salaries are 6% higher than last year and higher than the current inflation rate of 3.2%. Together with the 1 million plus unfilled vacancies, predictions are that these labour shortages won’t be fixed any time soon – unless we do something about it.

How can we address this labour shortage?

At NCFE, we believe in getting the right skills, for the right jobs, to the right people – and we’re committed to supporting people back into work.

We know that when people succeed in their careers, it not only positively impacts their personal and professional lives, but our regional economies too. From filling key skills gaps and revitalising sectors to boosting the economy, the effects of reskilling and upskilling are far-reaching.

Equip adults with the skills they need for a career they’ll love

It’s important that we equip jobseekers with the skills and confidence needed to enter the workplace. From sector-specific skills such as manufacturing or health and social care, to essential skills such as CV writing and interview techniques, the more skills they gain, the better chance they’ll have to secure employment and, crucially, stay in employment and succeed.

For adults who are currently employed and looking to progress, CPD is a must. Constantly improving their skills and knowledge can help individuals to progress within their current organisation or elsewhere within their sector.

We know that currently, one of the biggest challenges that businesses are facing is that of staff retention. Employers must invest in their staff, provide good contractual terms, and offer training and development to help them to progress and ensure that they feel fulfilled. NCFE offers accreditation to organisations who want to give their bespoke in-house training and qualifications something extra.

Our expertise supports businesses in demonstrating the quality of their qualification to their employees – helping to improve the value of the qualification, encourage uptake and upskill their workforce. Organisations who chose to use NCFE for accreditation retain ownership of their course content and delivery.

Utilising government funding

The government has various funding pots and opportunities for adults to learn new skills or develop their existing skills in order to gain or progress in employment.

Colleges, independent training providers and local authorities can deliver Adult Education Budget funded qualifications to provide individuals with skills to enhance their employability. Upon completion, adult learners can progress into work or sign up to an apprenticeship.

NCFE has conducted extensive research into regional skills gaps, and our team of experts have created units and qualifications which address them. Dependant on region, we offer training in digital, business, health and social care and more.

The Restart programme, part of the government’s Plan for Jobs, gives enhanced support to Universal Credit claimants who have been out of work for between 12 and 18 months, so that they can find jobs in their local area. Referrals are made by DWP to contract providers across England and Wales.

NCFE has a suite of courses focussed on upskilling adults and giving them the skills they need to prepare for job applications, interviews and entering the workplace. We have courses available in areas such as business support, personal and social development and warehousing.  

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee is a government-backed initiative which is transforming the skills system so that everyone, no matter where they live or what their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives.  

Any adult aged 19 and over who does not already have a level 3 qualification or higher can access an eligible, fully funded level 3 course. Plus, new funding rules mean that adults can study a short qualification before committing to a full level 3 qualification, meaning that they can experience a taster before committing to studying in a specific sector. We currently have 33 listed qualifications which are eligible under the Lifetime Skills Guarantee scheme, including Coding and Cyber Security, Health and Social Care and Uniformed Services.

Traineeships are training programmes that include work-focused training, a work placement and support to improve skills for work. These programmes can last from 6 weeks up to one year, although most last for less than 6 months.

With a simple, sharp focus on employability, our traineeships have the power to help disengaged young people jump-start their career and make rapid progress – particularly when followed by an apprenticeship or work-based training.

At NCFE, we know that upskilling our adult workforce is key to building back better. For support with AEB and Restart contracts or for more information on any of our provision, email learningforwork@ncfe.org.uk