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How England’s workforce will look in 2027 and beyond

15 March 2024

Technology is changing the shape of our workforce, but it is also a useful tool to help predict what’s coming. Pearson’s Workforce Skills division have used advanced data analytics, applying machine learning and natural language processing models to billions of data points, to identify future workforce requirements. This includes where parts of the local economy will grow and where others could experience a reduction in roles because of emerging technologies. These predictions are vital in supporting decision makers – be they policymakers, educators or employers – as they shape their regional education strategies.

We recently published the Pearson Skills Map England 2023, which provides vital insight into the immediate needs of the modern workforce, to help employers and employees stay relevant and adaptable for the long term. The localised insights look at the nine regions of England and explore which jobs are expanding and declining across different sectors, and current and future skills in demand from employers.

Using predictive capabilities, the analysis indicates that 6.7% of jobs across England will be impacted by automation and augmentation by 2027. This means that more than two million workers, of all ages, skills levels and seniority, will need to find alternative roles to remain employed, as a result of technological change in their sector. However, our modelling demonstrates that automation does not necessarily mean fewer jobs – it means different jobs. Despite persistent fears about automation replacing human workers, our predictions are optimistic that there will be more jobs available across England in five years' time. Overall, we forecast that over 2.4 million new jobs will be created by 2027, a net increase of 390,000 additional roles.

Predictive data is vital in supporting decision makers as they shape their regional education strategies. However, understanding the impact of these numbers on the lives of people in highly affected roles will help to provide viable career transition options, as well as equip future generations with the tools to flourish in their careers. As a result, we have identified three ways to help prepare for the changes within England’s workforce through higher education (HE) strategy, design and policy.

1. Localised skills strategies

    Our data also makes clear that local-level analysis is necessary to drive better skill strategies. Whilst every region is set to see tens of thousands of jobs affected by technology, different localities have very different economic conditions and very different employment opportunities. Given that the job market will constantly evolve, regions with a flexible and adaptable workforce that can more readily anticipate and embrace new opportunities over the next ten years are the most likely to thrive.

    Pearson’s wide range of qualification types and subjects help providers and employers to fill both current and future skills gaps. New qualifications such as T Levels and Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) are two of the ways that the Department of Education is looking to support learners to develop the technical skills to enable England’s workforce to thrive.

    2. Flexible learning

      The introduction of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) in 2025 will provide all new learners with a tuition fee loan entitlement to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education. We know that there are barriers for adults in taking the risk of a loan for learning. In polling conducted as part of a recent Pearson policy paper, Spotlight, 54% of adults said it was unlikely that they would take out a government loan to finance a training course. This is where regional information, advice and guidance may come to play, presenting pathways of learning across levels with clear lines of sight to work.

      We know that locally customised learning provision is essential in meeting regional needs especially when working with local employers. At Pearson, we have always prioritised flexibility in design when building qualifications (for example, by introducing our modularised HN Flex provision) to allow for this kind of engagement, which preserves the real-life applicability of learning.

      3. Funding power

        To enable localised skills strategies and flexible learning to be a success, more flexibility in how regional funds are spent will be key to stimulate uptake. Regionally devolved powers may be one solution, allowing regions to move more quickly and have greater flexibility in responding to local market demands, through ability to spend their skills and employment funding where it is needed. Different localities have different skills needs, changes and gaps, which each require a bespoke approach. Our research reiterates that local leaders are best placed to understand local labour market conditions, and to work with local employers and education providers to support the development of future skills.

        Rebecca Mameli is the Senior Strategic Lead, Higher Education Research and Product Solutions, at Pearson.

        Pearson is a sponsor of AoC's College Higher Education conference, taking place on 21 March. To find out more and book your place, click here.