Solving future skills challenges

Solving future skills challenges
Educating more people at university could bring significant benefits to the UK economy as the Fourth Industrial Revolution increases future demand for higher level skills.


The onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and digital technology – and challenges of Brexit and an ageing population are creating rising demand for those with qualifications above Level 4 (HNC/Ds, foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees). This report looks at the rapid pace of change and increasing complexity of work, and highlights the need for continual skill upgrading, lifelong learning and study of higher education qualifications at all levels.


The report reveals that:

  • In 2016, 440,000 new professional jobs were created, yet there were only 316,690 first-degree UK-based graduates, leaving a recruitment gap of 123,310, more than double the gap in 2015. 

  • 65% of children entering primary schools today will ultimately work in new jobs and functions that don’t currently exist.

  • Nearly 50% of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree is outdated by the time students graduate. 

  • Employers have told CBI that they expect the greatest demand for skills over the next three to five years will be for people with higher level skills where there is already a much higher employment rate.

  • By 2030, it is estimated that there will be a UK talent deficit of between 600,000 to 1.2 million workers for both our financial and business sector, and technology, media and telecommunications sector. 

  • Universities provide many professional and technical qualifications, estimated at around 41% of overall provision.

Episode 1: UUK's Greg Wade talks to Joe Marshall - Chief Executive, National Centre for Universities and Business. Episode 1 transcript (PDF)

Episode 2: UUK's Greg Wade talks to Stephen Isherwood - Chief Executive, Institute of Student Employers. Episode 2 transcript (PDF)

Episode 3: UUK's Greg Wade talks to Bob Gilworth - President, AGCAS. Episode 3 transcript (PDF)

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