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Soft skills vital to UK economy

Cross industry coalition calls for action on soft skills as new research reveals they can add 15 percent to lifetime earnings

Cross industry coalition calls for action on soft skills as new research reveals they can add 15 percent to lifetime earnings.

New research reveals soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and time management – can boost lifetime earnings by up to 15 percent McDonald’s led coalition with James Caan CBE and a number of businesses, charities and organisations including AON, Mencap and the National Youth Agency calls for formal framework to better promote and recognise soft skills – currently worth £88bn to UK PLC. Working group established to carry forward recommendations and commission formal tender for soft skills framework – group includes CBI, Pearson, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) and Association of Colleges.

A new report commissioned and led by McDonald’s UK has today called for a robust framework to better recognise and promote soft skills – such as communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork, and time- and self-management. The report follows a three month cross industry consultation, which included the CBI, National Youth Agency, Pearson and National Grid, and was backed by entrepreneur James Caan CBE. Over 60 organisations and individuals took part in the consultation, submitting either written or oral evidence.

The recommendation of a formal soft skills framework for schools, employers and employees comes as a result of consultation findings that people at all life stages are struggling to understand, develop and express the soft skills they need for their next career stage. A proposed framework would embed the importance of soft skills in education, employment and wider society and enable the ongoing development and improvement of these skills throughout an individual’s career and lifetime. The report also found that, specifically amongst young people, the current lack of a standardised set of defined skills, which are both recognisable and have a clear means to be achieved, results in many young people not understanding what they need to be work-ready or how to progress their careers.

The report comes as new research from Development Economics demonstrates that having developed soft skills, can boost an individual’s lifetime earnings, by up to almost 15 percent (14.2)[1]. Employers clearly recognise the value of soft skills, which already contribute an estimated £88 billion to the UK economy[2]. Ninety seven per cent of employers say that they are important to their business success, yet a third of employers (32 percent) don’t assess these during appraisals and almost half (43 percent) don’t assess these when considering an employee for promotion[3].

The report outlines four core recommendations:

Create a robust, user-friendly soft skills framework

Robust enough to allow for accredited programmes where desired, but user-friendly enough for individuals and organisations to apply it to themselves and their hiring processes. A framework should enable the development and evaluation of soft skills throughout the individual’s life stages – from education to retirement.

Embed soft skills into the curriculum

Schools need to be able to better highlight where soft skills are being developed as part of the learning process, without a requirement for teachers do anything new. Improve links between business, education, youth sector to drive careers education for young people and soft skills development for all: Making mentoring, volunteering and work programmes easier to access would benefit pupils, employers and employees.

Encourage government departments to join up more

By achieving greater cohesion between the Department for Education, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Work and Pensions, the importance of soft skills and developing them as part of future policies would be better recognised. Today’s recommendations come off the back of CBI director general’s John Cridland's calls for systematic changes in the British education system to better equip students with the attitudes and aptitudes necessary for work and life. In order to drive forward these recommendations a working group led by McDonald’s UK has been established, consisting of Pearson, ForceSelect, the CBI, The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE), CIPD and the Association of Colleges. In the immediate term, this working group will seek to issue a tender to academic institutions to formally develop a user-friendly framework for the development and evaluation of soft skills.

Richard Forte, Chief Operating Officer, McDonald’s UK & Northern Europe, said:

“At McDonald’s, we think of soft skills as vital skills because communication, teamwork and decision-making, aren’t just important to our business, they’re vital to it. The impact they have on the experience of our 3 million daily customers can’t be underestimated. The recommendations coming out of the consultation show just how serious we are about tackling this issue and getting soft skills the recognition they so rightly deserve. Establishing the working group is the start of that journey but this isn’t a challenge that can be undertaken by businesses alone – the education sector, voluntary and youth groups must come together with industry to realise the potential of the hard value of soft skills.”

Entrepreneur James Caan CBE said: “When I look at the workplace today, it is these vital skills that are making and breaking businesses and careers. Everyone, from Chief Executives to young people in their first job, need these skills to realise their potential and help make their business productive and high-performing. Economic conditions mean today’s business environment is more competitive than ever, and we need people with the right skills to stay ahead of the widening productivity gap. It’s time for employers, government and educators to take action to recognise, promote and improve them. If we succeed, the prize is worth more than £109 billion to the UK economy by 2020, and it will make a real difference to the careers and lives of millions of people.”

[1]Development Economics, June 2015

[2]Development Economics, January 2015

[3]YouGov Plc, September 2014

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