UK needs Future Skills Council to improve workforce employability, says report

A report from Kington University says that a more coordinated approach is needed to ensure graduates get the soft and digital skills they need to make a success of their degrees

Kingston University says the government should convene industry and universities to establish a board, modelled on the Creative Industries Council (CIC), to target upping soft and digital skills in the UK.

The council should aim for a joined-up approach to training from policymakers, HE and large employers as the government seeks to close workforce skills gaps that leave the UK jobs market under threat.

The report was launched by Kingston vice-chancellor, Prof Steven Spier, on 13 June at the House of Parliament. 

The CIC is co-chaired by the secretaries of state for digital culture, media and sport (DCMS) and business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS). Kingston says the council has “set the standard” for cross-sector working and argues a new, Future Skills Council is needed if HE is to help tackle pressing digital and workplace skills gaps. 

Kingston says a poll shows employers want successful graduates to be adept at a range of things, with aptitudes for events, brokering deals, technology and analysis. The report argues that an economics degree, for example, is not as consequential to a career in finance as communication, adaptability and digital innovation. 

Polled on what future skills were of preeminence to them, 60% of employers said problem-solving, 55% critical thinking, 54% communication and 51% digital. 

A representative of a major tech employer, Tiktok, polled by YouGov on behalf of the Kingston team of researchers, said it was a “common mistake” that tech brands only seek “people who can code”. In their view, tech employers and universities should codesign modules that reflect the more holistic skills kit aspiring graduates need. 

Kingston University said the minister for HE and FE requires an augmented remit, with joint responsibilities in both BEIS and the Department for Education. The report says that more funding would help universities pilot new approaches, such as support with entrepreneurial and digital skills, in existing degree structures. 

Said Prof Spier said: “The findings from our report show just how quickly the world of work is changing, where future skills will be essential to the nation’s prosperity. 

“There is a growing imperative to broaden higher education to ensure graduates keep learning and adapting to meet changing demands.” 

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