What skills do employers really want?

DI Discussions - What skills do employers really want?

It seems these days that hardly a week goes by without another report being published telling us about the skills needed by employers to drive the innovation required for a thriving economy.

Today Kingston University added to this list of reports by publishing the results of a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 employers. You can download the report here.

According to the Kingston/YouGov survey the top 10 skills for innovation, identified by more than half the employers sampled, are:

  1. Problem solving (77%)
  2. Communication skills (66%)
  3. Critical thinking (64%)
  4. Digital skills (64%)
  5. Analytical skills (63%)
  6. Initiative (62%)
  7. Adaptability (60%)
  8. Creativity (56%)
  9. Ability to build relationships (55%)
  10. A questioning mindset (55%)

For the team at Digital Innovators it is really pleasing to see that the skills listed in this report are those that we aim to develop as part of our Digital Innovators Skills Programme (and have been doing for the last 4 years). Skills such as collaboration, communications, critical thinking and creativity, which we refer to as the 4 C’s, are core to what we do on our programme.

Another report from October 2020, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), lists a different, but overlapping, set of skills which it claims are “the top 10 job skills of tomorrow.” These are:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Complex problem solving
  4. Critical thinking and analysis
  5. Creativity, originality and initiative
  6. Leadership and social influence
  7. Technology use, monitoring and control
  8. Technology design and programming
  9. Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  10. Reasoning, problem solving and ideation

An important outcome of the WEF report is that the vast majority of business leaders (94%) now expect employees to pick up new skills on the job – a rise from 65% in 2018. So, not only do the skills needed by employers vary depending on which report you read, but many employers expect these to be picked up rather than taught.

We are very much in favour of “learning by doing” at Digital Innovators, and this is something that is integral to our skills programmes. However, we believe this needs to be done within a learning framework whereby the required skills are first identified, then developed further through a mixture of hands-on practice and reflection techniques.

Psychologists have shown that using reflection helps people to not only learn but also to acquire the skills we need throughout life. New neuroscience research also shows that reflection has many other benefits, including helping us make decisions about how, what, and when to study.

Learning by doing and reflection are both great techniques to adopt in order to develop the skills desired by employers. However, these techniques alone will not be sufficient to address the skills shortage we currently face. We must recognise that creative skills as well as STEM (i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills need to be taught as part of a cohesive learning package rather than separately.

To put it another way, creativity is not just something that gets ‘taught’ in an art class. Creativity (as well as problem solving, critical thinking and many of the other skills listed above) should be considered as integral to a well-rounded education, whether specialising in the arts, the sciences, or something completely different.

Art and creativity are not interchangeable words. Of course, artists need to be creative but so do scientists, business leaders, and entrepreneurs. In all of these roles, one needs to be able to apply creative skills, frameworks and techniques to address some of the most frustrating questions and wicked problems of our time.

If we are to move forward and create a fairer and more equitable world, as well as a future workforce with the skills to innovate and boost our economy, we need to remove the stigmas behind certain skills only being applicable to specific industries. We need to move towards an infrastructure which regards the skills listed above as multi-disciplinary, and recognises the importance of providing frameworks to develop them.

If any of the employers and business leaders who contributed to the Kingston University report would like to get in touch to discuss what Digital Innovators are doing to develop the skills listed in the aforementioned reports, please reach out to us here.

Are you an employer in need of innovative, creative individuals to boost your workforce? Click here to find information about receiving funding for 6-month work placements through the Kickstart Scheme or get in touch here.

This article was written by Pete - Design and Technology Director

Published by Peter Cripps

Software architect, digital activist, blogger and photographer.

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