In times of change, essential skills matter more than ever

Post author image. Guest Editor

Sam Hannis is Talent Director, EMEA at Jacobs and a member of Business in the Community’s (BITC) Employment and Skills Leadership Team. He discusses the need for employees and employers to refocus on essential skills to ensure that we are all resilient to change, both in these turbulent times and going forward. 

Change can never be this slow again, the pace of change must accelerate to transform our business – common statements in these turbulent times. We all know in theory that change offers opportunity, but for many of us, myself included, change brings about fear. This is perfectly natural and of course an instinctive response that has served humans well for millennia. However, as it becomes clearer that we are not going to be able to resist change and keep things on an even keel, what can we do to take the anxiety out of it as we also advance our careers?

As it becomes clearer that we are not going to be able to resist change, what can we do to relieve anxiety as we also advance our careers?

Technical skills evolve and with the continued progression of those skills through the use of automation and AI (artificial intelligence) this will continue but likely at a faster, and in some cases, disruptive rate. How can we equip ourselves with the ability to embrace that change, adapt quicker to the advancements and perceived disruptions, and see them as beneficial and necessary, rather than as a threat to the status quo? 

Enter the Skills Builder Universal Framework, a common language and approach to building eight essential skills. Whether in school, at college or university, in the job market, or employment, a focus on the essential skills that equip us with the ability to engage with change is required. The skills we need for work and education are broadly identified as: 

  1. Basic skills – literacy, numeracy and basic digital skills
  2. Essential skills – highly transferable skills that almost everyone needs to do almost any job
  3. Technical skills – those skills which are specific to a particular sector or role 

All too often the essential skills element is skipped over and the business community do so at our peril. Technical skills are changing and being disrupted continuously – this is much more than the evolution of the past and much more radical in scope. For example, coding replacing the need for manufacturing and engineering skills. If there is a short cut in our development where we haven’t developed essential skills – honing our creativity, problem solving, our ability to aim high and stay positive to name just four of the eight skills – then we are not preparing ourselves to engage with disruptive change and setting ourselves up to fail. 

If we only focus on our technical skills and we encounter significant disruption to the industry we work in or the skills required to carry out our roles, there is a risk that we can’t navigate that challenging scenario. The ability to deploy creative thinking, positive thinking and our ability to listen actively will enable us to respond appropriately. Of course, some of us have these abilities already, but many don’t, or have not developed them enough and I encourage all employees and businesses, regardless of the stage we are at in our development, to re-visit these skills. 

The future is very much digital when it comes to technical skills but it is essential skills that will allow us to connect faster and in a more resilient way with the pace of change to technical skills. 

Find out more about how you can take a strategic approach to recognising and developing essential skills using the Skills Builder Universal Framework by downloading BITC’s Guide on How to Develop Essential Skills.

Find out how your organisation can deliver the change to build back responsibly.