The innovation foundation analysed 41 million online job adverts to enable more informed decisions by policymakers, educators, businesses, workers and students

In light of the current skill shortage and post-Brexit Britain, innovation foundation Nesta has created the most comprehensive public classification of skills in the UK. Nesta analysed 41 million online job adverts(1) to create the classification, which is the first time that this information has been made publicly available.

As Britain’s businesses predict a post-Brexit skills shortage, and longer-term factors such as automation change the skills we need, the classification will enable more informed decisions by policymakers, educators, businesses, workers and students - as skills become a key consideration for the health of the economy.

The detailed classification will allow for better planning of recruitment, training and education, and will help workers and students to make more informed career choices.

Nesta’s analysis detected the skills needed for different jobs, and shows how those have changed over time as well as estimates of the market value they command.

Skill groups with relatively high salaries and high growth include:

  1. Data engineering
  2. IT security operations
  3. Marketing research
  4. App development
  5. Web development

Skill groups with relatively low salaries and low growth include:

  1. Shipping and warehouse operations
  2. Medical administration and coding
  3. General sales
  4. Archiving and libraries
  5. Journalism and writing

Several of the skill groups with relatively low salaries and low growth require engagement with digital technology for administrative purposes, rather than in a creative way. This is consistent with Nesta’s recent study which found that the digital skills most likely to be needed in growing job sectors are ones that are used in non-routine tasks, problem-solving and the creation of digital outputs.

Eliza Easton, Principal Policy Researcher, Creative Economy and Data Analytics at Nesta said:

“The UK’s skill shortage is costly, damaging to growth, and could worsen because the skills that we need are changing. This isn’t just because of new technologies and automation, but also impacted by factors including globalisation, climate change and an ageing population. Brexit may also radically change the skills we have access to in the UK.

“We have created the UK’s first publicly available data-driven skills taxonomy because, more than ever, we need to create an informed labour market. Informed in the sense that education providers, workers, students, employers and policy makers understand how skills are changing and are empowered to react to these changes. New technologies may put jobs at risk but one of the great benefits of the technological revolution is that we now have the opportunity to create a labour market fueled by data and evidence. We now need to act on this evidence to protect the most vulnerable to these shifts in the labour market - ensuring they have access to lifelong learning and retraining schemes.”

Skill shortages are costly and can hamper growth, with the Open University(2) estimating that they cost the UK £2bn a year in higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing bills. Nesta’s analysis shows how new sources of big data can help to create a more informed labour market, as a first step in addressing this major issue.

The skills classification builds on Nesta’s research into which digital skills will be required for the future workforce(3), and its research with Pearson and The Oxford Martin School(4) about how employment is likely to change in the future - including the implications for skills.

Notes to Editors

  1. Nesta used a set of over 10,500 unique skills that had been mentioned within the descriptions of 41 million UK job adverts, collected between 2012 and 2017 and provided by Burning Glass Technologies. Over the next year Nesta will be showing a range of use cases for the skills taxonomy. This will include estimating skill shortages at a regional level and showing how the methodology can be used to automatically detect new and redundant sets of skills.
  2. The Open University (2017), ‘The £2.2 Billion cost of the skills gap
  3. Nesta (2018), ‘Which digital skills do you really need’?
  4. Nesta, Pearson and The Oxford Martin School (2017), ‘The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030
  5. Eliza Easton, Principal Policy Researcher, Creative Economy and Data Analytics at Nesta, and various case studies are available for interview.
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