Addressing the skills challenge: Our skills assessment findings

At Community we believe access to learning is a basic right. Education builds confidence, self-esteem and dignity; it is the key to success in our changing working world, where flexible skills development is vital.

We face a huge skills challenge in the UK, and unfortunately without the necessary resources and interventions, it is on track to get worse in the coming decades. We know that prior to the pandemic, employers were facing skills shortages and that nationwide we faced a mismatch between the skills workers held and the skills they needed to succeed in their jobs.

The nature of work, and careers, is changing fast. Skills are the new currency in work and will be critical if we are to successfully revive post-Covid Britain.

This skills challenge is why last year we partnered with Workerbird, an innovative tech for good start up, and in consultation with Community members from sectors across our union, developed and rolled out a ‘Skills assessment’ for every Community member.

We want to empower our members to take ownership of their skills and be able to confidently recognise the skills they currently have in their work and beyond. If members need to upskill and retrain if necessary, we’re here to help our members transition in their careers and meet the coming skills challenge.

Here’s what our members told us in their skills assessments:

Steel and wire

  • Members in the steel sector are more confident than not in skills for their current roles. Some skills gaps were flagged for further support, in recruitment, management, identifying opportunities and operating problems (deciding what to do about it and reporting accordingly).
  • Members also indicated further support needed in ‘general skills’ such as delivering presentations, working with numbers and presenting them accurately, creating and sharing documents, and data storage and sharing.

Footwear, leather and textiles

  • Members in wider manufacturing were confident in their skills for their current roles, however over 20% did report only ‘basic knowledge’ in their skills.
  • The assessment identified skills gaps for members in the skills required for their current roles and areas members require further support and development, notably in recruitment and management, as well as sector specific skills such as applying pre-stitching techniques.
  • Members also indicated that they require further support in general skills and digital skills such as ‘creating and sharing documents’ and ‘best practice in data storage and sharing’.


  • More members reported ‘confident’ than they did ‘very confident’ in skills for their current roles, and over 20% reported ‘basic knowledge’ across certain skills.
  • The skills gaps members in betting identified were in ‘recruit employees’, ‘set organisational policies’, ‘perform project management’.
  • Members on the whole responded with the majority ‘yes’ to English, numeracy and digital skills. However, some highlighted requiring more support in general skills such as sharing and creating documents, and taking precautions against computer viruses.


  • Members in education reported ‘very confident’ in skills required for their current roles.
  • Some education members reported limited knowledge in a range of skills relating to social work and services, and may look to have more support in skills for this area of work with children.
  • General skills were on the whole mostly ‘yes’ than ‘no’, however members may require further support on delivering presentations and understanding how the economy affects their work (funding and pay for example).


  • Members reported being ‘very confident’ in their skills for their current roles and ‘confident’ – a small number had no confidence or basic knowledge. The skills gaps identified in the sector included ‘creating financial plan’, ‘analyse market trends’ and ‘manage staff’, as well as wider skills such as managing staff and computer literacy.
  • On wider general skills, areas where members indicated requiring further support included digital skills such as creating and sharing documents, as well as working with numbers and presenting them accurately.

Justice and Custodial

  • Members indicated being very confident in skills required for their current roles, with an extremely small number reporting ‘no knowledge’, markedly less than other sectors.
  • Gaps in skills highlighted were in recruitment, as well as sector specific skills such as ‘ensuring compliance with types of weapons’.
  • Members on the whole responded ‘yes’ to the general skills, however stated they could require further support on delivering presentations, data analysis, creating and sharing documents, and numeracy specific skills such as percentages, fractions and decimals – all of which could help in their current roles as well as boosting their wider skill set.


  • Members stated that they were equally confident and very confident in their skills for their current roles, however many members also identified ‘no knowledge’ (15%) or ‘basic knowledge’ (18%) in skills needed for their role.
  • Skills gaps flagged in this sector range from using different communication channels, to more sector specific skills such as cleaning industrial containers, applying techniques for stacking goods into containers and maintaining stock control systems.
  • On general skills, members responded ‘yes’ to the majority of skills, however members may require further support on digital skills.

Motor Trade

  • Members reported the highest confidence levels across all sectors in skills required for their current roles.
  • The skills gaps in the sector included applying health and safety standards, as well wider skills such as performing data analysis and recruiting employees.
  • Members reported ‘yes’ to almost all of the general skills, however could require more support in skills such as working with numbers and presenting them accurately, business presentations and creating and sharing documents.

Social Care

  • Members in social care reported higher ‘confident’ than very confident in skills required for their current role.
  • Members reported skills gaps in dozens of skills where they do not feel confident and this will be explored further.
  • For general skills, members may require further support on numeracy skills such as working with numbers, and interpreting information in graphs and charters, as well as creating and sharing documents. These skills although may not be used by those members day to day, will develop them in their home life and if they want to upskill.

Freelance and self-employed

  • Members across different sectors who work as self-employed and freelance responded with mostly ‘very confident’ in skills required for their current roles.
  • The main skills gaps included ‘respect data protection principles’, ‘perform data analysis’, ‘apply health and safety standards’ and ‘plan marketing strategy’.
  • On general skills, members highlighted requiring further support on numeracy skills such as working with numbers and presenting them accurately, and digital skills such as creating and sharing documents and interpreting information in graphs and charts.

Additional sectors

  • On the whole, members across various sectors and roles reported they were confident rather than very confident in skills required for their current roles.
  • There were many skills gaps that need to be explored further, most commonly in managing staff and recruiting employees.
  • Members reported good confidence levels in general skills, however more support could be required for numeracy skills, and digital skills.

These findings give us unparalleled insight into our members skills and allows us to plan for the future. We want to ensure workers and our members have access to the skills development they need to succeed and excel both in their work and home lives.

Our work doesn’t stop here. Using the data from the skills assessments, we’ll now be continuing to get more members and employers involved developing skills.

We’ll be using these assessments as the basis for a dialogue on workplace learning with employers; seeing how we can provide a more tailored offer from Community Learning and identify those gaps, establishing the level of support members need to excel in their skills in their current jobs.

We want to create a cultural change where skills are prioritised throughout society, and development to meet emerging economic trends is constant.

We want to take our members on a journey of their skills that they need for the future to thrive both in their work and their personal lives.

Together we can and must overcome the skills challenge because, in the end, it’s working people who are the foundation of our economy. Our changing work landscape must be built with them, by them and for them.

Get involved in our work and campaign to tackle the skills challenge our country faces. You can join us here.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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