Covid-19 and skill shortages both short and long term

Written by Andrea Frith

The pandemic and various levels of restrictions that have taken place over the last 12 months have had an adverse effect on the global economy. This effect is both geographically and sector-specific (retail, travel, leisure and hospitality) and has caused an increase in the levels of unemployment, however, there are some sectors that been much less affected.  Notably, those hard to fill vacancies prior to the pandemic are still in high demand and in general cover Nursing, medicine and IT.


The effects of the pandemic are yet to be fully recognised and there is still a way to go before anyone can be clear on when it will end. At this time many businesses are thinking hard about what their future skills needs.  It is now obvious that the workforce will work from home more and this trend will increase the demand for digital skills. A skills shortage over the next decade will increase as the shift to a digital-based economy has been sped up by the pandemic.

There are predictions that show a large % of the current workforce will lack the skills required by 2030 if organisations do not start retraining and reskilling workers. It has also been predicted that up to two-thirds of the UK workforce could lack basic digital skills. Current research is showing that by 2030 there could be an oversupply of medium/low-skilled employees but a shortage of highly skilled employees.  High-Tech industries could drive growth and leave a large divide between skilled and low skilled workers. Technologies will be also likely to lead to widespread automation of professional work which could actually lead to job losses. The warning signs are there in the Government will need to lead on national skills retraining programmes.

It has been predicted that by 2030 up to 5 million employees in the UK could lack the basic digital skills to be able to perform the majority of jobs competently. The Digital growth and the high demand for digital skills in the future economy may outstrip supply.

The skills that employers should now be focusing on for the long term are:

  • Basic digital skills – as discussed above, this will soon be a minimum entry requirement of most jobs.
  • Management and Leadership skills. – The skills gap in the UK is widening and core leadership and management skills are predicted to be a high proportion of demand by 2030.
  • Communication skills – as the digital era continues to grow and automation takes over the demand for 'soft' skills will continue. This will include communication, problem-solving and creativity skills.
  • STEM skills – when all of the above is combined it is unsurprising that it is predicted that any skills associated with STEM subjects will be very sought-after with the ongoing technological advancements.

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