Apprenticeships based on 'overly simplistic' view of labour market

New Nesta and Pearson report highlights the skills most important to the future of the UK labour market in light of increased automation

Will Martin

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Current learning requirements for apprenticeship programmes are informed “by an overly simplistic view” of the future, according to innovation charity Nesta.

At the launch of the organisation's  The Future of Skills report in partnership with Pearson today, Hasan Bakhshi, Nesta's executive director of creative economy and data analytics, said that apprenticeship standards are rooted in an overly simplified version of the future of the labour market, and that the reality is somewhat more “messy” due to the rise of automation and other long-term trends.

“Lots of assumptions remain about the future of the labour market, often informed by…and we’ve observed this, we’ve observed all these discussions around, for example, apprenticeship standards…they’re informed by an overly simplistic view of what the future will bring,” Mr Bakhshi said.

“What we want to do is look in the data, point out that it’s a rather messy picture, and it’s not unfortunately just steady as it goes.”

The Future of Skills report uses a new methodology that maps out how employment is likely to change in the future, and ranks skills by their importance to future demand (see below). It states that: "Developing a picture of long-term jobs and skills requirements is critical for policymakers as they navigate rapid, complex and uncertain shifts in the economy and society. A wide range of areas – from curriculum development and careers guidance through apprenticeships and workplace training to occupational standards, migration and social insurance – rely on the availability of accurate labour market information."

'Fantastic ammunition'

Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of Nesta, said that the report provided “fantastic ammunition” for ministers whose educational policies were dealing with “the problems of 10-20 years ago”.

"In a way, it’s a simple question for every ministry of education…which is: ‘Is what we’re doing now fit for purpose of the likely landscape in 10 or 20 years’ time?’" Mr Mulgan said. "It’s a very simple question. I’ve asked many ministers of education around the world what their answers are to that question. Not many give a good answer. This is fantastic ammunition to help them.

He added: "I think in many countries a lot of curriculum design is essentially solving the problems of 10-20 years ago, or indeed when schools ministers were themselves in school, which is their primary formation, which is not very helpful.”

Roxanne Stockwell, principal of Pearson College London, said: We hear a lot about how automation will change the future of work and place many jobs at risk; however, this report presents a more nuanced picture of the future. Irrespective of future trends, there are a number of ways that today’s students and graduates can future proof their careers.

"Employers are always telling me that they need their employees to have soft skills like creative thinking, time management and effective communication," she added. "I expect these to remain in demand for many years to come.”

Top 10 skills ranked by importance to future demand for UK occupations

  1. Judgement and decision-making
  2. Fluency of ideas
  3. Active learning
  4. Learning strategies
  5. Originality of ideas
  6. Systems evaluation
  7. Deductive reasoning
  8. Complex problem solving
  9. Systems analysis
  10. Monitoring

Bottom 10 skills ranked by important to future demand for UK occupations

  1. Control precision
  2. Static strength
  3. Manual dexterity
  4. Rate control
  5. Peripheral vision
  6. Multilimb coordination
  7. Night vision
  8. Operation and control
  9. Sound localisation
  10. Glare sensitivity

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Will Martin picture

Will Martin

Will is a junior reporter at TES

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