2020 Vision expert insight

John Cridland on the skills challenge facing UK businesses


Unlocking the full potential of the UK workforce is about investing in skills and creating a talent pipeline, argues John Cridland, former Director-General of the CBI.

John Cridland has served the business community in a wide range of roles and was awarded a CBE for services to business in 2006. In November 2015 he stood down as Director-General of the CBI, after five years representing the interests of business to the government both nationally and internationally. He has recently been appointed Chair of Transport for the North.

John Cridland

The strength and edge of any business is always a result of the people it employs and the skill sets that it can draw on. Investing in the skills of your workforce will ensure that they have the right ones – technical, creative or language-based – needed to keep you ahead of the competition.

In my opinion, some of this investment should be directed towards further engagement between businesses and local schools and education institutions. Collaborating with academia at a grass roots level will help inspire and guide the next generation of talent, enabling businesses to collectively strengthen the talent pipeline they will need to 2020 and beyond.

However, if we are to unlock the full potential of the UK’s workforce, this needs to go further and embrace skills and diversity. The hard-nosed business case for diversity is clear. It has been recognised by industry, Government and business leaders. Since 2011, for example, the number of women on boards has nearly doubled, and there are no more all-male FTSE 100 boards – all achieved with a voluntary, business-led approach . As we head towards 2020, I’d like to see businesses build on the progress of recent years and achieve much greater levels of diversity across all sectors, and all levels of seniority.

2020 Vision John Cridland

How to ensure your business has the skills you need in 2020

  • Undertake a skills audit - what skills does your current team possess and where are the gaps?
  • Plan requirements. Look ahead to what skills you anticipate needing in the future. Could an apprenticeship scheme or collaboration with a local college or university help you develop and inspire next generation talent?
  • Develop an action plan to develop the required skills - collaborating with academic institutions can also be a great way to be involved in ground-breaking research and development projects.

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