How Business Growth will Catch Up with Higher Education Qualifications

Gerard Olsen
- Leadership - Jun 30, 2014

As a new crop of graduates gets set to climb the career ladder, a leading UK think tank reveals a fifth of low skilled jobs in Britain are filled by workers with higher education qualifications.

According to the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the reason for the disconnect is the creation of high-skilled jobs has not kept pace with the very rapid increase in education and qualifications.

Changing shape of the jobs market

The IPPR findings are outlined in the briefing paper, “Winning The Global Race?”, which analyses the latest projections on the changing shape of the jobs market in the UK in terms of skills and the importance of vocational education.

In their desire to ‘win the global race’, policy makers have focused on increasing the number of graduates in the economy, says the IPPR. However, winning the race will require more than simply expanding general higher education.

The IPPR analysis indicates over the next decade:

Business growth will indeed lead to the creation of more professional jobs

The number of jobs created as a result of people retiring or leaving the workforce will dwarf the number of jobs created as a result of business growth, and will be in very different occupations.

In absolute terms there will continue to be a large number of jobs created in the bottom half of the occupational ladder. Between 2012 and 2022 just over one-third of all jobs will be created in high-skilled occupations, with the remainder created in medium and low-skilled occupations.

A large number of jobs will be created in sectors that tend to rely on vocational education and qualifications. For example, there is set to be an additional 3.6 million jobs in medium-skilled occupations by 2022.

The creation of high-skilled jobs has not kept pace with the very rapid increase in education and qualifications. A fifth of all workers in low-skilled occupations have a higher education qualification.

In some sectors of the economy there is a mismatch between the skills and qualifications needed by employers, and those held by the workforce. For example, 39 percent of vacancies in skilled trades are caused by skills shortages, and there are emerging shortages in areas such as health and care professionals.

Meanwhile, in regions like the Middle East, higher education institutions such as the American University of Sharjah, for example, have been working ever more closely with employers in recent years to turn out the graduates which industry needs. However, even here, as in many other regions of the world, employers still have worries.

Biggest threat to business growth

A recent global PwC survey of over 1,300 CEOs in 68 countries revealed that after a number of years of headcount cuts, half of organisations surveyed were looking to hire again.

Organisations in the Middle East (71 percent), the South East Asian nations (54 percent) and China (53 percent) planned to make the most net hires over the next 12 months, while business services (51 percent), insurance (49 percent) and technology (46 percent) were the sectors looking to make the most net hires.

Despite the positive outlook for jobs, PwC's research revealed that business leaders were more concerned than ever about being able to find the right people to fill these roles.

Some 63 percent of CEOs (an increase of five percent from 2013) said the availability of key skills was the biggest business threat to their organisation's growth. CEOs in Africa (96 percent), the South East Asian nations (90 percent) and South Africa (87 percent) were most concerned about the lack of skills. Technology and engineering firms were struggling the most with the shortage of skilled employees.

Gerard Olsen is a recruiter expert and works on projects in various sectors, including education, finance and engineering. 

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