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Britain faces skills gaps crisis as employers fail to develop their entire workforces

A third of workers in Great Britain – and almost half (48%) of those aged 55 and over – did not learn any new workplace skills last year

New research published today by leading skills body City & Guilds Group reveals that British workers are being denied critical opportunities to up-skill for the future.

The research – carried out amongst 2,000 full and part-time workers in Great Britain in partnership with YouGov and launched as part of celebrations to mark the City & Guilds Group’s 140th anniversary year – highlights that 76% of the workforce agree it is important to continuously update their workplace skills regardless of age or career stage.

However, less than half (46%) are getting enough help and support from their employer to develop the workplace skills they will need in the future.

The findings go on to show that while 81% of workers believe the skills they need to do their job will change over the next five years, from a lot to not very much. A quarter (24%) of GB workers are not getting sufficient feedback from their managers or colleagues on the skills they should be learning.

Chris Jones, City & Guilds Group Chief Executive, commented: “With Brexit uncertainty overshadowing the economy and a burgeoning skills crisis, skills development has never been higher on the agenda. At a time of rapid technological change, the skills used by today’s workforce are becoming obsolete quicker than ever before and there is a clear need for continued Investment In learning.  Skills gaps are a stark reality and employers have a responsibility to enable critical training for their entire workforce, from graduate entrants through to senior leadership.”

According to the findings, the issue appears to be even more acute amongst certain groups within the workforce. Older workers are much less likely to receive workplace training than their younger counterparts and have less appetite to learn new skills: almost half (48%) of those aged 55 and over did not learn any new workplace skills last year.

Those working part-time are also less likely to receive workplace training compared to full time workers, with 42% reporting not having learnt a new skill in the last year.

Jones continued: “As working lives get longer and the age of the workforce Increases, now is the time for employers to prioritise up-skilling and re-skilling people at all ages and stages within their current workforce and to recognise the value and potential of every employee. However, our data clearly shows that people aren’t receiving enough employer support to develop the skills they need today, let alone those they may need over the next five years.”

Deborah Astles, HR Director Corporate Responsibility and Policy at Unipart explains why continuous learning is vital to the success of her business: "One of the motivations that guides all of our learning and development is the idea that anyone can be great if they are given the right opportunities to work hard and develop. This philosophy has shaped our training programmes and means that everyone at Unipart is able to participate and progress within the organisation, regardless of their age or experience. As well as being great for the individual, this approach is also great for business and we’ve seen measurable ROI through working smarter that far exceeds the investment in each learner. Creating an internal talent pipeline with transferable skills across the business has also reduced our recruitment and retention costs and makes Unipart less vulnerable to the skills shortages faced by many businesses at the moment."

When looking at the barriers to learning new workplace skills, taking time away from the day job is viewed as the biggest blocker (42%); followed by a lack of investment in training and development by employers (29%) and a lack of personal budget or funds (28%) to invest in training outside the workplace.

City & Guilds Group published the findings from the research in tandem with today’s Guildhall event in celebration of their 140th anniversary year.