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Top 10 Certifications for Employees in 2021

Recruitment levels are rising – a good sign of the economy opening up again – however, that talent need coincides with massive emerging skills gaps across many different sectors in Greater Manchester and UK wide. In this article we delve into research from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Skills Observatory and other supporting information to bring you the top 10 certifications for employees in 2021.

If you’re a business owner looking to recruit skills talent or upskill existing employees, this one’s for you.


#10 Business Management

Coming in at number 10, across the board, the need for skilled, experienced and decisive business leaders is paramount to our economic recovery beyond the pandemic. From construction and manufacturing, to professional services and hospitality, we need strong leaders and we need them now.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Leadership and Management
    • Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    • Facilities Management


#9 Retail

Retail footfall is on the return, but no one can deny the power of online retail/ecommerce, particularly since the outbreak of the pandemic. Smaller businesses struggle particularly with cutting through the ‘noise’ online, building brand awareness and driving sales to facilitate growth. A combination of seamless in store customer experience and the digital skillset to support further sales will be important for retailers as the economy reopens.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Digital Marketing
    • Retail Leadership
    • Customer Service Specialist


#8 Education

The nature of learning is changing and to answer to the increased need across GM for skills and vocational education, we need a workforce equipped to deliver that training. From in-house specialists to apprenticeship providers, we will need educators with knowledge and expertise, and the skills to keep up with flexible, digital delivery.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Coaching and Mentoring
    • Assessing Vocational Achievement
    • Computer Literacy


#7 Public Sector

Women’s career progression has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic despite making up more than 70% of health and education workers. Rising mental stress from education and care sector closures, and a need for increased care responsibilities in the home, could see health and education become a more male-dominated environment. Our public services, particularly the NHS, are under immense pressure to keep up with the pace of the pandemic and its aftermath, and a deficit of skilled employees is emerging.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Business Administration
    • Social Work
    • Policing


#6 Sales and Marketing

Sales skills gaps are causing crucial orders to be lost to competitors, with a knock-on effect from Manufacturing and Logistics skills deficits delaying order procurement and causing customers added frustration. Sales and Marketing skills are crucial for the growth and development of all SMEs, with a particular need for digital skills to enable SMEs to stand out in the online marketplace.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Digital Marketing
    • Customer Service Practitioner
    • Computing for Creative Industries


#5 Finance

With the reopening of the economy, we will also see an end to or reduction of many grants, incentives and financial aids that have helped businesses through the pandemic. To be able to budget beyond COVID and grow back with minimal risk, businesses across the UK have a great need for in-house finance specialists.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Accounting
    • Bookkeeping
    • Business Analyst


#4 Hospitality and Catering

In GM it has been reported that the hospitality sector has up to 3,000 unfilled vacancies, turning sector recruitment into a “battleground”. With high levels of job loss across the sector throughout the pandemic, and career disillusionment from those who have remained, a huge skills deficit has emerged in hospitality, with many hard to fill roles and businesses concerned about keeping up with customer demand upon reopening.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Hospitality Business Management
    • Hospitality Supervisor
    • Food and Beverage Services


#3 Construction

Nationally, recruiters for the construction industry report that it is getting harder to hire people, with a steep increase in employers registering jobs and vacancies taking longer to fill. The Federation of Master Builders has identified particular shortages of bricklayers, carpenters and joiners.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Bricklaying
    • Joinery
    • Site Carpentry


#2 Digital/IT

Computing has experienced something of a boom since the outbreak of the pandemic, with businesses digitising at rapid speeds and new technical innovations emerging as a result. The need to upskill existing employees in computer literacy and digital skills is growing, along with a hiring boom for in-house IT specialists.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • Information Security
    • Software Development
    • Technical Engineering


#1 Manufacturing, Logistics and Warehousing

The Road Haulage Association said the ‘UK HGV driver shortage has now hit catastrophic proportions.’ Made worse by Brexit and/or COVID-19. Freight rates are rising to a level that operators are finding unsustainable, and costs will have to be passed on to consumers. In Manufacturing, crucial orders are being lost due to delays bringing new products and services to market, and a digital skills gap looms with the introduction of new technologies and automated systems.

  • Spotlight Certifications
    • HGV Driver
    • International Supply Chain Logistics
    • Product Design


So, there you have it, our top 10 list of certifications for employees in 2021.

Job losses throughout the pandemic have left huge skills gaps to be filled and a deficit of experienced professionals to fill them now that the economy is reopening. September will likely be a ‘crunch’ point with the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and we expect to see a worsening of inequalities between disproportionately affected groups with worklessness increasing as a result.

However, many of the skills gaps we have discussed here are available on a fully funded basis via the National Skills Fund and/or through our GM Skills Map platform.


If you are an SME looking to develop your team with skills, call us now on 0161 237 4444 or leave your details here for a call back.


Useful Resources



Labour Market Intelligence Briefing | The Growth Company

Skills Observatory Briefing | GMCA


The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years. 

This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.  

Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit 

About the author

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support is a fully funded, tailored service to help upskill your employees and improve business productivity.