Equip the workforce with skills for the future

Equip the workforce with skills for the future

Without higher skills, UK business could be left in the dust


Businesses need skilled talent to stay competitive, but the working world is changing faster than people can develop the necessary skills. By 2024 almost 50% of jobs will require higher-level education; and two thirds of firms are already facing digital skills shortages. The gap is widening. Businesses will lose out – unable to innovate and grow – and employees will too.


The change we're calling for


That’s why we’re calling on government to ensure the current and future workforce has the right routes to access new skills - from education through to retraining - developed in conjunction with the real-world requirements of business.

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    Reform the Apprenticeship Levy so it works better for business and boosts uptake

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    Open new routes to higher-skills by developing T-Levels (A-Level alternative) and a national entitlement to level 4 qualifications

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    Set a target for 100% of the UK workforce to have basic digital skills by 2025, and support this upskilling through the National Retraining Scheme


Why it's needed


79% of businesses expect to increase their number of higher-skilled roles, and 95% expect their digital skills needs to increase in the next 3-5 years. Yet 66% fear there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill these vacancies.

The widening skills gap is a problem with no quick fix. It requires a wide range of interventions – and concerted effort from business and government in unison – to turn the tide.

Opening up the right routes to new skills is key, and though T-Levels and apprenticeships are promising developments, the Levy is in need of urgent reform. There must also be dedicated action around digital skills: as firms become increasingly reliant on the shifting landscape of technology, this skill set will only grow in demand.

To prevent firms from stretching across an impossibly wide gap, policy action - generated through consultations with business - is needed now.

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"There is currently a mismatch between the changing world of work and the UK’s skill mix – this cannot continue. Business, government and education must work together to provide access and opportunities for people of all ages to gain higher-level skills and qualifications. Our future prosperity depends on it."

John Cope, Head of Education and Skills Policy, CBI

Please mind the skills gap

As the world of work rapidly changes, the skills gap only threatens to widen

It is vital that businesses and government work together to develop routes to higher skills that close the gap across the board.

  • of firms are confident that they will be able to access the digital skills they need in the next 3-5 years

  • The number of businesses offering apprenticeship programmes dropped from 83% in 2017 to 70% in 2018

  • of employers anticipate a need to upskill employees in their current roles in the next 12 months

There isn’t just an economic imperative to closing the skills gap

Automation, AI and other innovations bring opportunities, but this also means that firms and government must help lower-skilled employees to embrace the changes through retraining. If the UK’s workforce is to thrive, our people will require a multitude of upskilling initiatives.


Our progress and impact


The CBI campaigns tirelessly on behalf of our members so that business creates prosperity for all. Learn more about the work we do and the impact we are making on this issue.

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Support the change

  1. Are you a business leader?


    Join the CBI

    Our members are our mandate, and the reason we’re the most influential business organisation in the UK.

    Join the voice of business, and help us campaign to open routes into higher-skills for the workforce of the future.

    Find out more
  2. Are you a CBI member?


    Have your say

    Are digital skills challenges impacting your business? We know that firms are hiring to address their digital needs, but are getting nowhere because the current talent pool can’t supply the right skills.

    We’re collecting case studies from members to shape our policy position. Share your story and help drive change.

    Get involved
  3. Are you a policymaker?


    Make a difference

    This wide and cross-cutting campaign is jointly led by the CBI’s People & Skills and Innovation & Digital teams.

    Contact John Cope, Head of Education and Skills, or Felicity Burch, Head of Innovation, to find out about the change UK business urgently needs and how you can support it.

    Contact us