The Skills Imperative 2035: What does the literature tell us about essential skills most needed for work?


The global economy faces significant shifts in the coming decades. The world of work is in state of transformation due to technological advancements, environmental changes and demographic shifts, accelerating structural changes in the nature of work. Meanwhile, the dual impact of technology and the pandemic is likely to exacerbate existing inequalities, adding to the challenges the Government is seeking to tackle in the ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper.

These effects are forecast to have a huge impact on the workplace and the role of workers in the labour market in the next 10 to 15 years and beyond, both in terms of the jobs that will be available and the skills needed to do them.

The first report in a series due to be published over the next five years, as part of the Skills Imperative 2035 project funded by Nuffield Foundation and led by NFER, will bring together what the literature to understand:

  • What will work look like in 2035?
    The megatrends shaping future work opportunities, with a particular focus on the impacts of automation, digitisation and AI; the job sectors expected to emerge or decline; and the effect of Covid-19 on the already changing world of work.
  • Which essential employment skills will be in demand and how do we prepare?
    Drawing on a range of projections and surveys to anticipate the essential employment skills which will be most needed in the 2035 labour market, and taking stock of what is happening or needs to happen to develop these.
  • We also discuss the implications of the review findings for government, employers and educators, and the next stages of our research study.