The biggest skills gap exists for specialist skills

The Employer Skills Survey breaks down the types of skills missing from applicants and the workforce into two categories:

  • Technical and practical skills – such as IT skills, numerical skills and specialist skills or knowledge
  • People and personal skills – including time management, teamworking and communication skills

As the survey cuts across different sectors, these skills are not specific to the voluntary sector and as a result, not all skills covered are relevant to voluntary organisations.

Within technical and practical skills, specialist skills or knowledge needed to perform the role were the most common missing skills from applicants (66%) and staff (52%). As mentioned previously, larger organisations were found to have a bigger skills gap possibly because they are more likely to require specialist skills. The type of skills missing from staff seems to support this, with most large organisations reporting a skills gap in ‘specialist skills or knowledge needed to perform the role’. Over two-thirds (69%) of organisations with 100–249 employees said this, compared to 54% of organisations with 5–24 employees. Other skills such as operational skills, and management and leadership skills were also more likely to be missing from bigger organisations (ESS).

Technical and practical skills

Specialist skills or knowledge needed to perform the role were the skills most missing from applicants and staff. Other technical skills such as complex analytical skills (49%), operational skills and digital skills, such as basic and advanced IT skills (both 43%) were also reported missing from applicants. The prevalence of these missing skills was similar for current staff, with 47% missing complex analytical skills, 44% missing operational skills, and 36% missing digital skills (ESS).

Chart 6: Specialist skills are the most common 'hard' skill missing from staff

People and personal skills

For applicants, self-management skills (66%), and management and leadership skills (56%) were the most common missing skills in the voluntary sector, a higher proportion than in other sectors. (ESS).

Self-management skills were also a sought-after skill for current staff as, similar to applicants, this skill was one of the biggest skills missing (67%), along with management and leadership skills (57%) (ESS).

Chart 7: Self-management skills are the most common 'soft' skill missing from staff

Spotlight: Digital skills

According to a calculation in ESS, over a third of voluntary sector organisations (36%) reported that their staff were missing necessary digital skills, and 43% reported missing digital skills in their applicants. This is similar to the proportion reported in the private sector (33% for staff and 31% for applicants) and lower than the proportion reported in the public sector (53% for staff and 40% for applicants).

The digital skills calculation includes basic IT skills and computer literacy which were missing from 28% of current staff (compared to 23% in the private sector and 38% in the public sector), and more advanced or specialist IT skills which were missing from 19% of the current workforce (compared to 18% in the private sector and 33% in the public sector) (ESS).

The Charity Digital Skills report 2019, based on responses from 540 voluntary organisations, showed that more than half (52%) of organisations did not have a digital strategy – an increase from the last two years (45% in 2018 and 50% in 2017). Additionally, while 43% rated their organisation’s understating of digital as excellent or good, almost half (47%) were concerned that they did not have the right digital skills in their organisation.

According to this report, common missing digital skills include artificial intelligence (AI) (76%) and handling data (62%). The government estimates that AI could add £630bn to the UK economy by 2035, so this could mean that voluntary organisations are missing out. Similarly, the importance of GDPR means that organisations with missing data skills could incur penalties. Relatedly, an increasing number of organisations (27%, up from 26% in 2016 and 25% in 2017) were finding it hard to attract or retain staff with the right digital talent (Charity Digital Skills).

According to the Lloyds UK Business and Charity Digital Index 2018, digital capacity in charities has been increasing since 2014. The proportion of charities with a low digital capability has gone down from 73% to 40%. Similarly, almost all (99%) charities are now online compared to 96% in 2014. However, almost half (48%) of all charities still lack basic digital skills, including problem solving, managing information, transacting, creating and communicating.

According to the Charity Digital Skills report, the main barriers to their organisation getting the most from digital were a lack of funding (56%) and a lack of skills (53%). Other barriers such as poor working culture (46%), other priorities (41%) or poor infrastructure and processes such as data protection (36%) were also given by respondents (Charity Digital Skills). While the Lloyds Charity Digital Index lists ‘being online is not seen as relevant’ (31%) and lack of skills (31%) as the top barriers preventing charities from doing more online. (Lloyds UK Business and Charity Digital Index 2018).

Chart 8: Lack of funding and a lack of skills are the biggest barriers to employers getting the most from digital