Technological change makes social and cognitive skills key to future workforce

Equipping the workforce with strong cognitive and social skills will be a larger benefit to the UK than just technical skills and knowledge according to research by Deloitte

Building on its work on the impact of automation on the UK economy, Deloitte has analysed 120 skills, abilities and knowledge sets and mapped them to UK occupational classifications to demonstrate which are the most important to the UK’s workforce and how this is likely to change in the coming decades.

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Deloitte forecasts that, by 2030, the UK is likely to need millions of additional workers with high skills to perform jobs that will require stronger cognitive abilities, content and process skills, and more specialist knowledge.

In contrast, those attributes of least importance to the UK workforce includes a number of physical and sensory skills, such as repairing skills, dynamic flexibility, explosive strength and sound localisation. These are more typically used in repetitive manual tasks better suited to machines than humans.

Of the 25 attributes found to be most critical to today’s workforce, just two are technical knowledge with the other 23 being skills and abilities.

Deloitte’s analysis demonstrates a strong relationship between the importance of process skills, social skills, problem-solving skills and systems skills with changes in employment. Looking back over the last 15 years, those jobs where these skills are more important to the role have seen stronger growth and those where they are least important seeing larger declines.

Angus Knowles-Cutler, Deloitte vice chairman and London senior partner, said: “We all know that automation is rapidly changing the world of work. This research points to a fundamental shift in the balance of skills, knowledge and abilities in the UK workforce to enable humans to thrive alongside the increasing use of technology. This shift is ongoing and set to continue in the coming decades.

“Although STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and knowledge are important in an increasingly digital economy, the UK will benefit most from a workforce with a blend of skills, including problem-solving, creativity, social and emotional intelligence.

“There are considerable challenges for businesses, educators and policymakers in helping the workforce and young people adapt when our current education system is geared more towards enabling students to acquire knowledge, rather than developing skills. Government has an important role to play ensuring a joined-up approach to the future needs of the UK workforce and ensuring the UK remains competitive.”



Debbie Carter

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