UK falling behind in global skills race

The UK skills gapNew research published today by City & Guilds Group claims that the UK risks being left behind as employers across the world race to upskill their workers. As digitalisation and fluctuating economies transform the skills needed in the workplace today, employees are less confident than their bosses that they’ll have skills they need for the future. The study, conducted by City & Guilds Group business Kineo, surveyed 6500 employees and 1300 employers across 13 international markets. It found that employers in developing countries with rapidly emerging economies are among the most likely to ramp up investment in upskilling their workforce in the near future, compared to developed economies such as the UK.

A significant 92 percent of Indian employers and 78 percent of Kenyan employers surveyed predicted a net increase in learning and development (L&D) investment in the next 12 months, compared to just 54 percent of employers in the UK. This is concerning considering only 13 percent of UK employees would rate the L&D opportunities at their organisation over the past year as very effective, compared to 31 percent in India.

As technological advances continue to transform the way we live and work, employers in developing economies are feeling the impact most acutely. While just 25 percent of employers in the US and 42 percent in the UK recognise the impact of digital transformation on their business, significantly more Kenyan (65 percent) and Indian (62 percent) employers consider this an important factor driving change. Equally, when it comes to automation and AI, the majority of employers surveyed in Malaysia (60 percent) and India (58 percent) found this to be a major driver of change, compared to just 27 percent of employers in the UK.

The research also showed that while 71 percent of employees globally recognise that the skills they need to do their job will change in the next 3-5 years, only 66 percent of UK workers think their employer is keeping pace with changing skills – lower than the global average.

However, UK employers are much more confident in their workforce, with 75 percent saying they’re confident they have the skilled staff they need for the next 3-5 years. This highlights a worrying perception gap, that – unless addressed – could lead to lower retention rates and compromised service levels and opportunities as employees seek out organisations who can better meet their training needs.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Investment in skills is less of an immediate priority for employers in the UK, putting us at risk of lagging behind other, more future-focussed countries[/perfectpullquote]

John Yates, Group Director – Corporate Learning at City & Guilds Group comments: “Businesses worldwide are navigating a period of immense transformation – and this is particularly evident in emerging economies, where organisations are ramping up their investment in L&D as they embrace technology and hone the skills required to compete on a global stage. However, our study shows investment in skills is less of an immediate priority for employers in the UK – putting us at risk of lagging behind other, more future-focussed countries.

“With the workforce becoming increasingly mobile – and the influx of overseas talent crucial to the future of British businesses – UK employers cannot afford complacency. Employers need to listen their workers’ training needs and ensure they continue to focus on upskilling – or they risk losing talent to other markets who are making this a priority. Equipping workforces with the skills to succeed in the future is a marathon, not a sprint, but those who overlook the importance of skills investment risk dropping out of the race altogether.”

Paul Grainger, Co-Director of the Centre for Post-14 Education and Work, and Head of Enterprise and Innovation for the Department of Education, Practice and Society (EPS) at the UCL Institute for Education comments: “With businesses around the world facing different changes and challenges according to the specific economic, cultural, political, demographic and technological factors of their location, they will have to react and develop the skills of their workforce in a way that is specific to their context.

“The foreseeable future is likely to be dominated by emerging digital technologies.  These can help individuals and communities to grow, become more agile, develop skills and network with a wider, global community. As these technologies are able to transcend borders, they help organisations and the communities in which they are based to adapt to the evolving needs of the community and the world at large. They support agility. And as workplace change is increasingly rapid, it is likely that those regions actively engaged in emerging markets will be better placed to manage the tensions between flexibility and predictability.”