Explore the ScaleUp Annual Review 2021

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Talent and skills

Scaleups are major employers in the UK economy but in a challenging market scaleup leaders are highlighting increasing concerns that access to talent will be a barrier to their future growth as we move into 2022.

In the 2021 Scaleup Survey scaleup CEOs have revealed their concerns over the future skills they need to recruit in order to scale further. Overwhelmingly they value critical thinking (70%) as one of the top three skills for their employees, followed by cognitive flexibility (44%) but they have low levels of confidence of finding either of these skills – below a third in both cases. 

They are sending a clear signal to the ecosystem that more needs to be done to help young people develop the right skills and to give them the support to take on new employees especially at a time when the battle for talent is heating up.

The ScaleUp Institute firmly believes that programmes that help school pupils and university / business school students make real world business connections should play a major role in overall education. Given the wide range of people scaling businesses look to employ, grant funding for training, apprenticeships and placements, also have an important role to play.

This Review again highlights successful exemplars that engage future workers with scaling businesses and build the skills that scaleup company leaders are demanding for the future and/or offer ways to tap into talent. Programmes previously endorsed continue to provide excellent solutions to this challenge and this year we are delighted to add Debate Mate to those endorsed for its role in developing the future talent pipeline for scaleups. 

Debate Mate supports debating clubs in schools in areas of high social deprivation to deliver skills in teamwork, communication, core confidence, problem solving and critical and creative thinking – all highly valued by scaleups. Around 5,000 students are reached each teaching week and 81% report feeling more confident speaking up in class as a result of participating in the programme and 90% saying that the skills gained would help them succeed in the future.

The Careers & Enterprise Company has now grown to support 4,221 schools and colleges link up with employers via its network of more than 4,000 volunteer enterprise advisers. The Careers & Enterprise Company has found progress has been accelerated in its expanded Career Hubs built on dynamic partnerships of schools, colleges, LEPs, local authorities working with local employers. Schools and colleges in the first wave of Careers Hubs have improved the performance of their careers provision by 92 per cent in two years.

With increasing numbers of scaleups looking for ‘social’ skills we welcome LifeSkills continuing to extend its reach. This year 90% of schools, 86% of universities and 78% of further education colleges registered for the programme. LifeSkills’ content is designed to provide young people with skills, knowledge and confidence. Users can access financial education, tips on employability skills, as well as core transferable skills such as solving problems and being creative, proactive and enterprising. Their virtual work experience tool allows young people to experience a day in the life of a business and a CV builder to help them stand out when applying for jobs.

Exemplar education-tech charity F4S continues its efforts to create equal access to the world of work using innovative digital technology to help educators link up with local businesspeople and professionals. In the 2021 scaleup survey over 4 in 10 scaleups leaders are seeking to undertake more employer encounters with students so it is pleasing to see over 1.2 million encounters have now taken place through F4S and virtual solutions are enhancing engagement in rural and harder to reach locations.

Scaleup leaders also recognise the importance that entrepreneurial education modules and vocational courses play in preparing the next generation. They are also eager to have the career opportunities that exist in businesses like theirs better understood in careers advice with over half stating this is important as we prepare the next generation for the workplace. As such, we continue to watch the progress of Teach First’s Careers Leaders programme which again has worked to implement improvements around strategy building and implementation. The sixth cohort started the programme in October 2021.

Sheffield’s RISE programme is featured again as one to watch for meeting scaleup needs for help to recruit the right talent. Since 2013 RISE has provided very practical support to more than 380 SMEs across the Sheffield City Region to become successful graduate employers, and to recruit over 490 graduate employees. An independent economic evaluation suggests the programme has repaid its investment 14 times over in terms of positive impact on innovation, productivity, growth, economic development, regional business opportunities and job creation. We believe this is a model that can be replicated across the UK with local areas, universities and businesses working in partnership.

Google Digital Garage continues to expand its work to help individuals and businesses acquire the latest digital skills. The Digital Garage has offered more than 10,000 hours of one-to-one and mentoring support and trained over 600,000 people. The Grow with Google initiative aims to help one million small businesses improve their digital and online presence to facilitate their access to customers by the end 2021.

These successful programmes are helping to make a difference to the skills and career focus of tomorrow’s workforce. Their approaches are now well tested and provide a blueprint for others to follow. This is vitally important as the economy recovers from Covid and businesses seek the talent and skills to continue their scaleup journeys.

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