Press releases

Workers with strongest transferable skills able to move into jobs with the brightest future

17 January 2018

  • Advances in technology will require more focus on skills through education and training than ever before
  • Reform of company training & hiring practices will be needed, with individuals being open-minded to multiple careers

Employment within 44% of occupations in the UK is declining, according to analysis by Deloitte. More than three million jobs have been added to the UK economy in the past 16 years, but employment is falling in 160 occupations, while it is increasing in 206.1

Deloitte’s report, the third in its Power Up series2 looking at the key forces shaping the UK economy, found that occupations where employment is increasing are typically those in which softer, transferable skills are more prominent. Occupations requiring a higher level of skills such as active listening, complex problem solving and the ability to exercise judgement have seen a net increase of 1.9m jobs between 2001 and 2016.3 Occupations typically requiring a lower level of such skills have seen a net decrease of 530,000 jobs.

Angus Knowles-Cutler, vice chairman and senior partner of Deloitte UK, said: “Major shifts are occurring in the UK workforce. Businesses are facing pressure to invest in technology and revise their operating models and occupations characterised by manual, clerical, administrative and repetitive tasks are being disrupted. This is causing many workers to fear that their jobs will be displaced and that they may not have the skills required to find alternative employment.

“With rapid progress in technology, today’s students may face very different working practices. It is crucial that before students leave education they understand employers’ changing expectations and are equipped to meet them. In an online discussion of over 350 educators, recruiters and experienced workers, the ability to work alone, be self-sufficient and build relationships digitally were identified as the most important skills for workers in the future. In contrast, the ability to work in a team was recognised as being far less important in the future workplace.4

Alternative career paths
Our analysis offers a different scenario to the doom and gloom of technology-fueled mass unemployment. Throughout history, advances in technology have led to more and better-paid jobs and so far in the 21st century, things have been no different. We know that the type of jobs we do and the way we work will change but our latest research shows that as transferable skills are more highly valued in growth occupations, opportunities will exist for workers to transition between industries and occupations. As a result businesses and workers will need to be more flexible when considering candidates and job opportunities respectively, while policymakers should focus more on developing skills rather than knowledge through education and training.

The length of time for which knowledge remains relevant is declining rapidly and the concept of a single career with a fixed knowledge-base will become less common. Workers will no longer be able to rely on predefined career paths. Our analysis of the five occupations that have lost the most jobs since 2001 found that they all possessed transferable skills desirable in growth occupations. For example, while the number of typists and post office clerks has declined since 2001, the number of medical secretaries and teaching assistants has increased and these roles require a similar level of transferable skills.

David Sproul, senior partner and chief executive of Deloitte North West Europe, added: “For the benefits of transferable skills to be realised, employers will need to change their approach to recruitment. Traditional recruitment processes, particularly for experienced workers, tend to focus on academic achievement and sector expertise, and could overlook individuals who might be well-suited for the role but who have built up their skills in a different context.

“Similarly, employees don’t always realise how valuable and relevant their skills are for other jobs, allowing them to reinvent themselves. As disruption gathers pace, workers will need to draw on their transferable skills, and plan for multiple careers.

“Challenging preconceptions about career paths and which workers hold valuable skills could also have a positive impact on productivity and help the UK workforce build resilience in the face of significant change. Employers need to create pathways for workers to transition between industries and roles. It will also offer an opportunity to widen the pool of talent available to businesses.

“Government and educators will need to work with businesses to meet the aims set out in the recently published Careers Strategy to familiarise young people with different places of work. Exposure to different challenges and different working environments from an early age will help young people build a strong foundation of transferable skills, as well as the confidence to apply them in many settings.”

Regional differences
While London and the South East have benefitted disproportionately from job growth and workers in those regions have higher average salaries, there are only marginal regional differences in the proficiency of core transferable skills. This offers reason to be optimistic about improving regional equality.

Sir Howard Bernstein, strategic adviser to Deloitte UK and former Chief Executive of Manchester City Council added: “In order to unlock potential in the regions, there is also a need for investment in infrastructure and to promote and support new growth industries right across the UK.

"How the UK economy responds to the challenges of a changing labour market and the requirement to strengthen our competitiveness has never been more important. How we focus more on place will in my view become increasingly important in the future."


Note to editors

Deloitte worked with the National Centre for Universities and Business, Teach First and Business in the Community. Please see below further quotes from the report.

David Docherty, CEO National Centre for Universities and Business, said: “We must ensure that our education system is fit for purpose for the brewing business revolution. It is paramount that our
universities work with employers to help properly prepare students for this changing world, and, for their part, that businesses must step up to take the opportunities provided.”

Amanda Mackenzie, CEO, Business in the Community, said: “We believe that, together, we can meet these challenges. As technology progresses, the aims of responsible business will remain the same,
but the ways we respond may change. Through collaboration and innovation, we can make sure that the digital revolution works for everyone.”

Russell Hobby, CEO Teach First, said: “Helping young people prepare for the world of work is a partnership between schools and businesses. Young people need good academic foundations –
literacy and numeracy are not going out of fashion in the digital age. Yet they also need to see opportunities ahead of them, to help convince them of the value of investing time in learning new knowledge and skills.”

1 Deloitte analysed ONS data between 2001–2016.

2 Power Up: UK skills is the 3rd in our series of viewpoints on the key forces shaping the UK economy, and the opportunities and challenges these present. This 3rd report looks at the importance of building transferable skills: rapid and often unpredictable advances in technology can make it seem like everything is in a chaotic state of flux – but underlying core, transferable skills remain constant with their importance weathering both career advancement and technology change.

3 Deloitte analysis compares the proficiency of 40 attributes across 366 occupations in the UK to measure the following attributes: the ability to listen, exercise judgement, show creativity, or draw accurate conclusions when presented with a range of information:

4 Remesh event and Deloitte analysis. The Remesh platform allows us to involve groups of people with real time conversation. It then uses machine learning to help us understand their views. Deloitte asked 357 people questions over a one hour period. The group consisted of people working in education, recruiters and experienced workers. The platform is set up so that a moderator can converse with the entire group as if they are having a one to one conversation. The group provides their opinion on other people’s responses and the machine-learning collects, analyses and presents the data in real time.

Power Up – the skills challenge
This is the third report in Deloitte’s Power Up series which will explore the critical challenges facing UK government and business and offer pragmatic advice on competitiveness, innovation and inclusive

This research identifies the core set of timeless transferable skills and makes the case to employers and government for workers to receive support to upskill them in these key areas, which will help them
be more resilient to the impact of automation in the workplace.

Deloitte’s research builds on the research in Talent for Survival using the same methodology, to map O*NET data, which describes the importance and depth of 120 attributes associated with every task
within each occupation in the US labour force to 366 occupations in the UK labour force.

To distil the most transferable skills in the UK workforce, we identified the most important 40 attributes at an economy level, removing knowledge specific attributes. We then compared the
proficiency of these 40 attributes across 366 occupations in the UK to compare the underlying skill profiles between occupations and ranked them in order of proficiency. For example architects have
the strongest transferable skill set, with a score of 1/100.

The findings from this approach were consistent with the feedback we had from 350 teachers, recruiters and experienced workers in terms of both the most important attributes that we identified and the fact that they have historically remained relatively stable in importance over time.

About Deloitte
In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms.

Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NWE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms.

The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.

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