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.
That is why the CBI partnered with Universities UK (UUK) to better understand the economic case for flexible learning and understand how business and our world-class higher education sector can work better together to help meet the needs of a changing economy.
Flexible learning is the key to future-proofing the UK workforce
As the CBI’s Education and Skills Survey showed, 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).
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.
The challenges facing business: five key takeaways from the research
With Universities UK looking at the barriers facing universities to provide more flexible learning as well as the challenges students who want to study on a more flexible basis, the CBI has led work to understand the challenges facing firms across England.
This new research reflects the fact that employers expect to need increasing numbers of people with higher-level skills in the years ahead – yet there is huge potential for universities to play a greater role in meeting this challenge.
You can read the full research here.
- Employers are experiencing shortages across all education levels
- Businesses are addressing predicted future shortages of highly educated people through recruitment, whilst meeting current needs through upskilling existing staff
- Businesses increasingly value higher-level and degree apprenticeships when recruiting
- When looking at graduates, employers value attitudes and aptitudes alongside qualifications, such as creativity, leadership, or teamwork
- Where employers do look to upskill or retrain existing staff, universities do not currently play a significant role.
With a review of Post-18 Education and Funding still on-going, the CBI and UUK are sharing this analysis with the review panel in order to help shape their thinking.
Given a major issue the panel will be exploring is how to encourage learning that is more flexible and which supports people who wish to study at different times in their lives, we believe our analysis demonstrates a clear economic case for flexible learning.
The review panel will be publishing an interim response which the CBI will respond to in due course.