Summary

Understanding technical and sectoral skills gaps and skills underutilisation in Scotland.


Although educational access and attainment have improved, skills gaps have increased due to a tightening labour supply. The 2017 Employer Skills Survey (ESS) revealed that 16% of Scottish employers reported skills gaps and estimated that 5% of the workforce lacks full proficiency: largely unchanged since 2015. Among those organisations that reported skills shortages, both technical and personal skills were cited in the ESS. For example, 59% suggested that specialist skills were needed, while 46% suggested that the ability to manage and prioritise were required.

Skills gaps vary across sectors with a reported high of 7.2% in manufacturing and low of 2.3% in IT and communications. Between 2015 and 2017 skills gaps fluctuated greatly. For example, in education they fell from 5.3% to 3.5%, while they rose from 4.3% to 5.0% in construction and remained static (5.2%) in business services.

Alongside skills gaps, the ESS survey revealed that over a third of employers (35%) in 2017 reported having at least one member of staff with qualifications and skills of a higher level than their role required, an increase from 32% in 2015.