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Mind the skills gap

This opinion piece is 8 months old

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Mind the skills gap. That’s the title of an Open University (OU) press release talking about the current skills landscape in Scotland, issued on the back of the Business Barometer report 2021. It’s a very apt title because, as the report demonstrates, there are some very pronounced skills gaps in Scotland.

What’s particularly concerning is that skills gaps have increased – 62% of business leaders in Scotland say they are struggling with recruitment, compared to 60% last year. Although small, this increase highlights that the numbers are moving in the wrong direction. We need the skills gap to be narrowing, not widening.

A skills revolution

Much has been made of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is driving the skills agenda. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 predicts that 85 million jobs will be redundant by 2025 and that 97 million new roles will be created. This has big implications for employers – a lot of upskilling and reskilling must take place over the next few years.

The skills gap in numbers

Here are a few more of the headline statistics from this year’s Business Barometer report, produced by the OU in association with the Institute of Directors:

  • Almost half of Scottish businesses (42%) think they will struggle to find people with the right skills in the next 12 months, with more than a third (36%) saying it will continue to be a problem for the next five years
  • Almost two thirds of organisations (61%) think the pandemic has made it harder to recruit candidates with the right skills
  • 64% plan to spend more on training existing staff

How The Open University can help in Scotland

There’s a reason why the OU has over 20,000 students and is the most popular university in Scotland for part-time higher education. We have a long history of working with industry stakeholders, providing a wide range of courses that enable professional and personal development – upskilling and reskilling through providing high quality, accessible, flexible learning and development solutions that are tailored around employer and learner needs.

Funded training for SMEs

The OU in Scotland is providing training through the Flexible Workforce Development Fund for the second year running, helping small and medium-sized organisations overcome the challenges and embrace the opportunities presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. The funding, a £1 million grant awarded by the Scottish Funding Council, enables SMEs across the private, public and third sectors to access funded training – available to both staff and volunteers – up to the value of £5,000 covering key areas such as leadership and management, digital and IT, the green economy, and health and social care.

Looking back on the last year of this fund, there was strong uptake from the third sector and from care organisations for OU courses.  Euan Murning – Director at Hogganfield Care & Skye Care recently shared their story.  There’s clearly a critical need and a desire for lifelong learning.

A challenging picture for employers

The pandemic has thrown up so many challenges for employers – leadership and management skills are still in short supply, for example. It’s not just Covid-19 causing problems either – Brexit is also having a big impact on skills gaps.

Combine all of these factors and it’s no wonder that employers are recognising the importance of upskilling and reskilling to address their skills needs. Let’s hope that by next year’s Business Barometer report, that 62% figure is on the way down, not continuing its current upwards trajectory.

Find out more about how to unlock the potential of your workforce in Scotland through the OU’s innovative solutions:



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