Support collaboration to deliver future talent

The economy is changing. We recommend that the Government, universities and businesses all have a critical part to play in preparing future talent.

Automation and digitisation is leading to a fundamental shift within our labour market. Simultaneously, the UK is aiming for a future economy driven by research and innovation. These aims can only be achieved if we have the talented people required to deliver. For many years, employers have been reporting large numbers of hard-to-fill vacancies at professional level, from nursing to teaching, to engineering and software development. At the same time, employers are highlighting the increasing importance of ‘soft’ skills, including analytical and critical thinking as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

Cross-cutting national body

The Government should establish one cross-cutting national body, which works across the remits of government departments and regional bodies, to strategically assess current and future talent needs.  A coordinated, cross-cutting approach needs to be taken to develop, upskill, retain and retrain domestic talent. This body should therefore also recommend policy solutions to government across education, training, research, immigration and diversity and inclusion policy.

Student funding system

To address the UK’s professional level skills shortages, the Government should develop a clear process of waiving the student debt of graduates in occupations with significant skills shortages. This will not simply incentivise students to undertake degrees that may prepare them for a skill shortage occupation, but will also help employers to attract graduates to those occupations and retain them in the longer-term.

Adapting and upskilling

To help people retrain and pursue new careers, the Government should provide targeted support for part-time provision and flexible adult learning. The announcement that higher education loans will be made more flexible was very welcome but the Government should go further and remove the restrictions for Equivalent and Lower Qualifications (ELQ).

The Department for Education should also develop a consensus on one recognised framework of ‘soft’ skills (working with current schemes) and communicating this effectively to employers, students and universities.


In this context of change, collaboration between employers and educational institutions is critical. In a review of 24  reports on the future of skills, the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) found that 31% of the recommendations highlighted  the importance of collaboration as fundamental in responding to rapidly changing skills needs. There is a need to focus on the factors that support and enable collaboration. Read more about NCUB’s work in this area here.