The employer perspective

Hiring people with a higher-level education is an increasingly urgent priority for business. This is because our economy and the world of work is changing, making more flexible and new routes to higher-level education more important than ever.

The CBI’s most recent education and skills survey found as a result of the changing jobs market, by 2024 almost half of all jobs will require workers to have completed some form of higher-level education (level 4 and higher, though not necessarily at degree level (level 6)). Upskilling necessitates much more flexible ways of learning. Meeting the needs of the economy therefore rests on widening access to higher-level education and promoting routes that appeal to people for whom a traditional, three-year university degree may not be the best option. As such, policymakers will increasingly need to focus on developing more flexible learning opportunities to allow people to balance studying with other commitments.

The decline in part-time students is therefore alarming. Research by the Sutton Trust has shown, part-time study in England has collapsed over recent years, with numbers falling by 51% between 2010-2015. This matters not just for businesses who are looking to hire people with a higher-level education to raise productivity or adapt to economic change, but also for the individual, for whom studying is often an important chance for personal development or to change careers and retrain. The importance of flexible learning to improve social justice should also not be underestimated. Encouraging lifelong learning will therefore grow in importance in the coming years.

To complement the CBI’s role on the Government’s National Retraining Partnership, the CBI has partnered with Universities UK (UUK) to better understand the economic case for flexible learning. This project considers the extent to which the UK’s economic potential is constrained by a lack of flexible learning opportunities. This new partnership between UUK and the CBI is important given ensuring we have a workforce with the education and skills to succeed is a responsibility shared equally by government, education institutions, and business.