Which Skills Are In Demand With UK Employers?

News, Trends

August 19, 2021

We’ll not beat around the bush and come straight to it. Digital Skills have been gaining prominence for over a decade and the remote/hybrid work culture has only accelerated that. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that we will need to reskill more than 1 billion people by 2030 in order to catch up with the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution i.e. that of technology.


At the same time, there is growing concern at a perceived ‘digital skills gap’ in the UK. Academic studies alone do not instil in students a breadth of skills that will suit them for an increasingly digitised workspace. 


The Headliners: Digital Skills & Technology


According to Mark Lester, the Chief Partnerships Officer for the online learning platform FourthRev, cybersecurity, data analytics, and programming skills were the most desired skills from employers in the UK in the next 12 months. The dearth of these available skills has meant that more than 50% of UK businesses surveyed by FourthRev have found it difficult to find good candidates for entry-level roles. Meanwhile, 81% of those surveyed believe that they will have to recruit from outside of the UK in order to make up for the shortfall in demanded skills. This right here is a gold mine for international graduates willing to work in these fields. 


Highlighting the digital skills gap, a study by PwC showed that although 69% of employers are looking for candidates with data skills in 2021, only 17% of the UK workforce can be classed as ‘data literate’. 


Soft Skills in demand in 2021

On top of digital-based skills, employers are keen to seek candidates who have key social skills, as an ability to collaborate and innovate new ideas with colleagues, as well as high emotional intelligence. 


Collaboration was listed as the most in-demand skill in the results of the aforementioned survey. In fact, 92% of businesses surveyed said they are seeking candidates with this skill while only 8% of those recruiting felt that universities encourage or instil it in students. 


The second most desired skill listed is the ability to be innovative. Employers value innovative employees because of the fresh ideas and creativity that they bring to the company.


Problem-solving is another skill that is highly requested by employers in the UK, as are critical thinking skills. The latter however is one that universities are known for delivering. 


Sales and marketing are skills that are deeply sought after too, as they are going to be largely unaffected by automation; i.e, robots will not be able to do sales as well as a human. This further shows the vital importance of having good people skills in an era of automation and digitisation. In many cases, what makes teams work best and most productively is having members who are able to empathise and connect with each other on more than just a superficial basis. This means that when people aren’t doing well, it is picked up upon, and this all helps the team to do well in the long run. 


All of these skills line up with the most in-demand jobs in the UK too which include being a business analyst, an operations manager, software engineer as well as a customer service advisor. 


Being adaptable is another skill that is highly required. Given the effects of the COVID pandemic, businesses themselves have had to change the way they work immensely, so having an adaptable character is another quality that is highly regarded amongst employers. This is a skill that shows that you are eager to learn, and able to respond quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities and expectations. 


Of course, it also goes without saying that employers are always keen to hire people with foreign language skills, which is already a skill that many international students have aplenty. 


All in all, while there are many key skills that are in demand specifically due to the digital skills gap, there remain many that have stood the test of time and they are mainly to do with your personal character. 


Written by Marco Marcelline


Marco is a freelance journalist who has written for the likes of Dazed and VICE UK. He also co-edits Kalu Mala, a zine that seeks to platform the creative talents of the Sri Lankan diaspora

Photo by Branko Stancevic on Unsplash


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