North West workforce lacking vital skills needed for a changing economy

New report from Barclays LifeSkills reveals many people significantly over-estimate their core employability skills with men being the worst offenders. Tony McDonough reports

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Many people significantly over-estimate their core employability skills, the report claims


People across the North West are significantly over-estimating their core employability skills meaning the region faces a large skills gaps over the coming years.

That’s according to a new report from Barclays LifeSkills which surveyed and tested more than 10,000 16-65 year olds, 600 employers and 500 educators from across the UK and found that 57% failed to demonstrate all the employability skills needed to succeed in the future workplace.

And the study – How employable is the UK? – reveals this figure rises to 59%in the North West with many lacking vital skills in areas such as leadership and creativity.

The findings come just weeks after the publication of a report by think tank Centre for Cities which revealed too many young people in the Liverpool city region lacked the skills to thrive in the fast-changing employment market.

Speed of change

Barclays LifeSkills says the skills identified in its study are “crucial” in preparing the UK for a world of work where, due to the speed of change, we are unable to accurately predict what the jobs of the future will look like and what technical skills will be needed.

The seven employability skills are what humans are best at and include proactivity, adaptability, leadership, creativity, resilience, communication and problem solving. They cannot be replicated by robots and will become even more valuable in the future.

The study showed that traditional sources of these skills, such as in-work training and formal education, are not currently set-up to tackle the employability skills gap.

Despite 79% of UK employers rating the skills as important to their industry in the next 10 years, 34% do not plan to offer any training in the near future. Research among teachers from across the UK revealed that 22% don’t think their institution is effective in developing employability skills for pupils. 


The report highlights that, if we are to be successful in addressing this employability skills gap, educators, businesses and the Government must work more closely together. 

Respondents from the North West showed that they were over confident across the seven employability skills. The North West had a 21% difference between their self-assessed skill levels and the reality of their test results.

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Too many people lack the vital skills for the future


The research findings showed Millennials as the lowest performing age group, with just 39% of 25-34 year olds able to display all of the core skills. This generation risks being overtaken in the increasingly competitive employment landscape by the younger Gen Z (16-24 year olds), a slightly greater proportion of whom (41%) can demonstrate all seven key skills, despite only just having entered the workforce.

Across younger respondents however, the study found high levels of over confidence when matching actual abilities to how they rated themselves, showing the need for ongoing support in building skills.

In comparison, 47% of Baby Boomers (51-65 year olds) had the full range of employability skills but rated far lower in their self-confidence, meaning those who are working later into life may need support in using their strong skillsets to their full advantage.

Gender gap

For every skill, women outperformed men, with 46% of women able to demonstrate they had all seven skills, compared to just 39% of men. Despite this gap, men were much more likely than women to be highly confident in their own skills, particularly when it came to adaptability (19% of men compared to 14% of women).

Ashok Vaswani, chief executive of Barclays UK, said: “Today’s findings show the importance of lifelong learning, whatever your age or chosen career path. I firmly believe that education should not stop at the school gates – businesses, educators and the Government all have a role to play.

We need to work together to agree a core set of transferable employability skills, giving people of all ages the tools needed to upskill and ultimately creating a competitive workforce that will support the UK economy.”

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