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Seven key skills for the evolving job market

Preparing for the future

Problem solving, leadership, adaptability and creativity head the core transferable skills employers look for in future, according to research from Barclays LifeSkills.

The ability to solve problems is the most desirable skill for UK employers, according to research from Barclays.

Problem solving emerged as the most important of seven skills employers look for from job applicants, followed by creativity, leadership and adaptability. However, educators ranked the ability to analyse and solve problems using logic as unlikely to be as important as other skills, including communication, resilience and proactivity.

The research also found the importance of adaptability had increased over the past decade. This could reflect uncertainty in the UK labour market, and the changing ways that people use to navigate it.

The study, commissioned by Barclays LifeSkills, provides a picture of employability skill levels across the UK, and the abilities the UK will need to compete in the future world economy. It brings together the perspectives of employers, educators and the working-age population.

The seven skills that help you get ahead at work

1. Resilience

The ability to cope with challenges or setbacks and turn them into positive, valuable learning experiences

2. Proactivity

Taking the initiative and making things happen, instead of always reacting to what happens around you

3. Problem solving

Using a structured process to analyse tricky problems, consider logical solutions, and then evaluate the result

4. Communication

The verbal and physical skills that we use every day to explain what we’re thinking and feeling to other people

5. Leadership

The ability to get the best out of a team of people as you work collectively to tackle a task, or reach an objective

6. Adaptability

The ability to adapt with and thrive in changing conditions

7. Creativity

The ability to come up with inventive ideas that will help you complete a task or solve a problem in a new or interesting way

Shortage of employability skills

Employers are concerned that applicants lack the core, transferable skills they need to succeed in the future job market. More than half (57%) of respondents failed to correctly answer competency questions for all seven employability skills.

Employers said 30% of applicants were unable to demonstrate leadership. Leadership is the skill that educators think students are least likely to be equipped with when entering the job market.

Self-perception is another problem for job hunters, with less than half of respondents able to accurately estimate their actual skill levels. Younger people were most likely to over-estimate their abilities, particularly those working in London.

Financial barriers to training

Employers believe that a combination of on-the-job experience and training can help employees make up ground on the skills they lack (with the exception of creativity). However, 38% of employers hadn’t provided any formal training for their workforce in the past year and more than a third of surveyed employers said that they do not intend to offer courses in any of the seven skills in the next 12 months. Financial constraints were the most common of the many reasons given for not providing training.

Types of employee

The research highlights a number of different types of worker, and how employers can help them gain the skills required for the future. This could be by working more closely with educational providers, helping them and young people to keep pace with the rapidly changing world of work and understand the skills that are needed. It also provides a way to understand differing opinions of which skills are perceived as most important.

You can read a detailed summary of the report download the full version [PDF, 8.6MB] to find out more about employability skills, and what they mean for your business.