COVID-19 has created a skills mismatch, accentuating the already worrying shortage of low
and intermediary skills in the UK workforce. To hit the nail on the head, the UK is projected
to rank 22 nd for low (below upper secondary) skills and 28 th for intermediate (upper
secondary) skills, in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously rocked the boat and exacerbated the gap between
the much-hailed digital skills and everything else that lies beneath that. As far as vocational
and educational training is concerned, the UK still lags behind its competitors, ranking the
13 th out of 18 countries by the benchmark Surveys of Adult Skills testing literacy and
If you want to peel the onion even further, you will find out that the UK is the only country
where older people (age category: 55-64) outperform younger people (age category: 16-
24) in both literacy and numeracy tests.
It doesn’t require rocket science to deduce the future implications of this data, and
although these conclusions and results are out there, in the open, the world seems
more concerned about the Coronavirus immediate economic implications, putting the education and future skills development on the back burner.
The need to cut corners and go for a short-term solution is understandable in this context,
and it is not impossible either.
Cut to the chase and engage the worldwide freelancer database
This is an immediate solution to compensate for many of the current workforce
shortcomings. Deploying a local team of freelancers to do the selling for you in another
cultural and social background is one solution to the problem. Deploying a local project
manager to further hunt for the right people with the right skills to do the job on the
ground for you is another option.
However, it requires a lot of energy and experience in dealing with freelancers, and not
many companies can do this. Nevertheless, the fact that many businesses still don’t see
freelancers as a possible solution to resolve short-term workforce issues is an opportunity
in itself. There is still a fair portion of an unbeaten track in this area, but we have embarked
on blazing a trail and coming the other way with a well-round, perfectly-functioning
solution: finding and deploying freelancers all over the world to do the job for you; creating
a network of freelancers you can always go to with a problem to be solved.
We’ve discussed our view on this matter in a recent article.
Skills are vital for the post-Covid19 recovery
Productivity demands a sacrifice in skills, and in the UK, growth continues to be held back
by workplace skills shortages, gaps, and mismatches. The Coronavirus pandemic has
served as a great magnifying glass on this matter, highlighting the widening UK skills gap.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) has called on the government
to focus on future investments in skills. This comes as the service industry workers have
been hit hard by the lockdown restrictions and the government’s support package does not
seem to help them much.
In this actual context, the workforce is vulnerable and the UK governments need to create a
long-term recovery plan including boosting social mobility. In 2019, a report by the
Industrial Strategy Council reported that 20% of the workforce will be significantly under-
skilled for their jobs by 2030. This can lead to faltering productivity, widening the skills
gap, and failing social mobility.
The UK needs to urgently offer support for the furloughed and those at risk of
unemployment by investing in their training and skills and helping them return to the
workforce with higher productivity. This is a long-shot bet, but it needs to be done.
Moreover, before the Coronavirus, the UK had serious skills shortages in areas like
technology, engineering, and construction, with particular skills deficits in poorer regions
and sub-regions. A 2018 survey by Lloyds showed that 5.4 million people of working age
lacked in basic digital skills as well. The UK could boost productivity by up to 5 percent if
they manage to reduce the high skill gaps in its workforce.
The reconfiguration of critical employees’ skills
The term “skill” encapsulates the building and leveraging the capacity, capability, and
coordination of a working person. Before the pandemic, the “crucial people” with “critical
roles” in a company were those who possessed the abilities to ensure the strategic goals of
the company. Quite general, right?
Now, there’s a new “critical role” emerging, the one responsible for the success of the new
workflow of the day, and this includes self-motivation, productivity with minimum
management, time-management, and digital skills.
To build the workforce of the next post-pandemic world, we might need to focus less on
set-in-stone, traditional “roles”, and more on the “skills” needed to drive the organization’s
competitiveness and the workflows forward.
Looking to the future, you will need to encourage your employees to develop critical skills
rather than prepare them for a specific “fixed role”