PwC finds that the availability of key skills is a top concern for CEOs, as The Open University highlights the need for wider access to upskilling

London, 17.01.2017 – PwC’s latest annual CEO survey indicates that concern about the availability of key skills is second only to uncertain economic growth as an issue in the minds of UK CEOs. 83 percent of surveyed CEOs said that they were ‘somewhat’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about access to talent.[1] These results come in the context of current UK trends which suggest that technology will drive a shift from low-skill, routine occupations to higher-skill, agile roles, creating worrying predictions of a labour market deficit in highly skilled areas.[2]

If current trends continue, the UK will have a total of 15 million high-skill jobs by 2022, leaving a shortage of three million high-skilled workers. According to the government’s State of the Nation report, falling demand for low-skilled individuals over the same period could see nine million people chasing just four million jobs.[3]

The Open University emphasises that urgent change is needed to ensure progression from low to higher skilled occupations is open to all.

Steve Hill, External Engagement Director at The Open University, comments: “As we consider what the heralded Industry 4.0 means for our future workforce needs, there is certainly encouragement from the fact that our economy is seeing growth in high-skill areas.

“But the shape of our labour force must change to meet business requirements. We need to consider fully the impact on individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole if we fail to open up opportunities for progression to those currently locked into low-skill roles. Training options which extend beyond the classroom, such as higher and degree apprenticeships, have a key part to play, since they give individuals a chance to learn relevant, work-based skills whilst earning.”

Steve comments: “Creating a high-skill workforce across the UK is key to boosting growth in all regions, particularly those that are currently suffering the severest skills shortages. By taking full advantage of the flexibility afforded by supported online learning delivery, businesses can access the highest-quality training material for their employees, no matter where they are based in the country.

“Alongside the spread of options such as the degree apprenticeship, which offer individuals a new pathway to higher skills, it is the flexibility and quality at scale that online learning can offer which will help to redress the skills mismatch our country is set to face.”

About The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 200,000 current students, including more than 15,000 overseas.
 
The OU regularly supports over 2,400 organisations, including KMPG, Hay Group and the NHS, delivering flexible learning solutions at scale to address skills shortages and develop high performing workforces. Four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
With a global reach and as the UK’s leader in part time education, with 76 per cent of OU’s current students studying whilst working full or part time, the OU is well equipped to deliver consistent learning at scale to dispersed workforces.
 
In the latest assessment exercise for university research (Research Excellence Framework), nearly three quarters (72%) of The Open University’s research was assessed as 4 or 3 star – the highest ratings available – and awarded to research that is world-leading or internationally excellent.  The Open University is unique among UK universities having both an access mission and demonstrating research excellence.
 
Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which received 5.2million unique visitors in 2012/13, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 66 million downloads. For further information please visit: www.open.ac.uk

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