Kingston University calls for a Future Skills Council to address workforce skills challenge

Kingston University has published a new report calling for the establishment of a Future Skills Council bringing together industry, universities and policymakers to tackle the nation’s skills shortages and secure the UK’s future economic prosperity.

The Future Skills report, which surveyed businesses and students on the skill set most important to future careers and the economy, found attracting and retaining talent in the global marketplace was viewed by business as the greatest threat to the nation’s economy. Leading firms, including Coca Cola, TikTok and Mastercard, shared their views on what matters most in the graduates they recruit.

The report proposes a roadmap for delivery, bringing together government, businesses and education providers to create a new Future Skills Council, modelled on the Creative Industries Council. Co-chaired by Ministers from the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, its focus would be on solving the workforce skills challenge in terms of meeting future needs as well as supporting the Levelling Up agenda.

The study commissioned by Kingston University, in partnership with YouGov, which surveyed 2,000 businesses and 1,000 students, follows on from a similar survey of businesses carried out last year. Building on the 2021 findings, the 2022 results show the ability to communicate, analyse, adapt, problem solve and think creatively remain the key skills leading businesses want from their employees, with students also identifying these as the attributes they most value.

Businesses who responded to the survey said the most pressing challenges they believed the UK workforce faced during the next two decades included:

  • a lack of ‘future-proofed’ skills – 46% of respondents
  • a lack of adoption of lifelong learning – 41% of respondents
  • keeping up with digital capability – 37% of respondents

The survey results also highlighted the areas industry felt should be prioritised by the government:

  • investing in a workforce that is both skilled and adaptable – 57% of respondents
  • developing the UK’s social infrastructure – 57% of respondents
  • investment in research and development and innovation – 51% of respondents

The report also calls for a new model of higher education, building on the traditional degree to deliver future skills as part of a university education, as well as increasing the provision of lifelong learning. As part of its new Town House Strategy, Kingston University is embedding future skills across its curriculum and developing new metrics around employability.

Kingston University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Spier said: “What businesses say they need in terms of graduate skills could not be more emphatic. 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. What we’re doing at Kingston University in embedding future skills across our courses is proof that higher education can pivot in this way and deliver what the economy needs.”