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The role of career adaptability in skills supply (evidence)

The need to re-balance the economy to secure economic recovery, renewal and growth, in parallel with achieving increased efficiency gains in public spending has been recognised as critical by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. With eighty per cent of the 2020 workforce already in work, it is clear that: ‘We must fix the ‘stock’ of adult skills as well as the ‘flow’ of young people into the labour market’ (UKCES, 2010, p. 103). What is missing in this analysis of the skills problem, however, is a sense of the progression of individuals through work across the life course, particularly insofar as this involves movement between sectors. As a consequence, the dynamic way in which individuals become engaged with learning and development pathways, which can involve up-skilling, re-skilling and sometimes transformational shifts in perspective as their careers unfold, has remained largely absent from current policy analysis in this area. This study examines the potential of the concept of career adaptability for increasing the quality of careers support services and enabling individuals to become self-sufficient by supporting themselves. Career adaptability could also fit with the goal of enhancing high performance working (Felstead et al., 2011). The inter-relationship between career adaptability and employability is considered alongside relevant policy initiatives that could benefit, potentially, from the adoption of career adaptability both by individuals and organisations. Findings highlight the need for a stronger policy framework that helps motivate and inspire individuals to take action at different ages and stages in the life course (that is, new ways of combining learning, earning and active citizenship). Individuals have a wide range of goals, aspirations, achievements and identities, which emerge in a variety of community contexts, institutions, qualification structures and labour markets. Those who do not engage in substantive up-skilling or re-skilling through either formal learning or learning through work, for periods of five to ten years, run the risk of being ‘locked into’ a particular way of working. They become more vulnerable in the role of careers adaptability in skills supply in labour market, especially where there is a significant change in their job or their circumstances, because their ability to be adaptable with regard to their career progression can decay. Findings from this study indicate that adopting a competency approach1 What is ‘career adaptability’? to developing career adaptive behaviour could provide a useful framework to promote the need for individuals to adopt certain behaviours to help realise their career aspirations. Additionally, this approach offers a potentially constructive framework for raising awareness of self-defeating behaviours in which some individuals may be inclined to engage.