With more employers preferring essential skills to specialist skills when recruiting candidates, we’re helping education providers and employers develop an understanding of what these skills are, and how workers can build them in the workplace.


The situation

There is growing recognition that the development of essential or ‘employability’ skills, such as teamwork, presenting and problem-solving, are crucial in preparing young people to make the transition from the classroom to the workplace. They are also critical to enabling workers to progress and adapt if necessary, as they re-skill or upskill in response to changes in technology, work or employment.

Although essential skills are fundamental to people working effectively together in organisations (as well as to how they engage with customers and other stakeholders), there’s currently no universal framework to enable education providers and employers to have a common understanding of these skills, nor is there help for workers to build these skills for the modern workplace.

CIPD viewpoint

Previous CIPD research found that, when recruiting, an increasing majority of employers prefer candidates with ‘employability’ skills and a broad understanding of their sector, rather than those specialist skills and knowledge required for specific vacancies. It is critical that young people can demonstrate these when entering the workplace and that individuals are supported to develop these skills throughout their working lives.

However, action has been hampered by a lack of universal framework to enable both education providers and employers to have a common understanding/definition of these skills. Numerous reports and frameworks have been presented by a range of organisations in an attempt to address this problem, resulting in multiple and sometimes conflicting definitions and solutions. This has created a confusing and fragmented landscape for employers, young people, employees and educators alike.

That is why the CIPD, along with a number of influential and respected organisations, came together in the UK as the Essential Skills Taskforce, to agree a universal framework of essential skills which clearly defines the skills needed to succeed in education, work and life. The Skills Builder Universal Framework, developed by this Essential Skills Taskforce, is a clear, measurable and authoritative framework that sets out how essential skills can be identified in practice. It provides a common language that both education providers and employers can easily understand and adopt.

Recommendations for employers

Adopt and use the Skills Builder Universal Framework to describe, recognise and develop the essential skills of young people and existing employees, through:
  • Designing interview questions that allow hiring managers to understand the extent to which applicants possess key essential skills
  • Ensuring that competency and development frameworks include the core essential skills required for the modern workplace and that workplace training helps develop and embed these
  • Ensuring that people managers encourage and enable employees to use these essential skills, such as problem solving, creativity and teamwork by providing appropriate support and autonomy.

Skills development

Explore our resources for further information on essential skills for employees and the UK skills policy

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