TACKLING SKILL SHORTAGES AHEAD OF BREXIT: Nesta launches comprehensive map of national skills

In response to current skill shortages in the UK and fears that they could increase after Brexit, innovation foundation Nesta has created the most comprehensive public classification of skills in the UK to date, to create a more informed labour market.

The uniquely data-driven skills map, to be presented by Jyldyz Djumalieva, data science fellow at Nesta, at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Warwick in April 2019, analyses 41 million online job adverts to enable more informed decisions by policy-makers, educators, businesses, workers and students.

As the country’s businesses predict a post-Brexit skills shortage, and as longer-term factors such as automation change the skills needed, Nesta’s classification will provide a better understanding of changing trends and make it possible to equip the workforce with the skills needed for the future. The findings could lead to better planning of recruitment, training and education, and they will help workers and students to make more informed career choices.

Nesta’s analysis detects 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. Web content management

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.

Jyldyz Djumalieva, Data Science Research Fellow, Creative Economy and Data Analytics, Nesta says:

‘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.’

‘Since the skills taxonomy launched last August, we have received feedback from leaders in the industry that this kind of resource could be groundbreaking for the education system, careers advice and adult learning providers.’

‘Going forward, we hope to use the taxonomy to have better measures of skill demand and supply at a regional level.’

‘We will also continue to study how skill requirements change over time as this will enable us to identify skills that remain relevant and sought after across a range of professions, as well as high growth skills that will be in demand in the future.’

Skill shortages are costly and can hamper growth, with the Open University estimating that they cost the UK £2 billion 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, and its research with Pearson and the Oxford Martin School about how employment is likely to change in the future – including the implications for skills.

Notes for 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.

About Nesta: Nesta is a global innovation foundation: ‘We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment.’ To find out more visit www.nesta.org.uk

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833

Jyldyz Djumalieva

Data Science Research Fellow | Creative Economy and Data Analytics, Nesta | 0207 031 7220 | media@nesta.org.uk