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UK Employers Urged to Upskill Workers
November 26, 2019
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As businesses around the world race to upskill their workforces, City & Guilds Group warns that UK employers risk being left behind

UK employers must do more to upskill their workforces or risk lagging behind employers in other parts of the world, according to City & Guilds Group.

It surveyed 6,500 employees and 1,300 employers across 13 international markets and found significant differences in L&D investment in different parts of the globe.

The research showed 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 proportion of Indian (92%) and Kenyan (78%) employers predicted a net increase in L&D investment in the next 12 months, compared to just 54% of employers in the UK. 

This is concerning considering only 13% of UK employees would rate the L&D opportunities at their organisation over the past year as very effective, compared to 31% of employees in India, researchers said.

When asked about skills, 71% of employees globally recognised that the skills they need to do their job will change in the next three to five years. However, only 66% of UK workers think their employer is keeping pace with these changing skills.

UK employers had a more positive outlook, with three-quarters (75%) saying they’re confident they have the skilled staff they need for the next three to five years. 

This highlights a worrying gap between employer and employee perceptions which could lead to lower retention rates, poor performance and opportunities as for employees to seek out organisations which can better meet their training needs.

John Yates, group director for corporate learning at City & Guilds Group, said the research shows that upskilling is less of a priority in the UK than he hoped. 

“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-focused countries,” he said.

He urged employers to listen to workers’ needs on training and development: “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 to their workers’ training needs and ensure they continue to focus on upskilling or 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.”

The study also found that employers in developing economies are feeling the impact of technological advances in the workplace most acutely.

While just 25% of employers in the US and 42% in the UK recognise the impact of digital transformation on their business, this rose to 65% of Kenyan and 62% of Indian employers. Equally, when it comes to automation and AI, the majority of employers surveyed in Malaysia (60%) and India (58%) found this to be a major driver of change, compared to just 27% of employers in the UK.

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 UCL, said technology can help to support the changing workforce. 

“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,” he said.

“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.”


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