Last month, the CBI welcomed the Prime Minister’s bold steps to help solve the urgent skills challenge facing the UK. But research carried out prior to the pandemic suggests the country is now at a fork in the road. Invest more in adult education to level up opportunity across the country and boost competitiveness. Or maintain business as usual, risking sustained unemployment and skills shortages.
The CBI’s new report Learning for life: funding world class adult education, based on McKinsey & Company analysis, shows that nine out of ten employees will need to reskill by 2030 at an additional cost of £13 billion a year. With COVID-19 now accelerating changes to the world of work, the UK must use this momentum to drive a national reskilling effort. Learning for life also sets out how boosting business and Government investment in reskilling would improve job satisfaction and raise living standards.
Four key issues government and business must work together to tackle
Employers remain the biggest investors in adult training, but investment in workplace training has flatlined at best in the last decade and needs to increase. Good employers recognise the importance of investing in people and embracing a learning culture: it improves staff retention, satisfaction, and overall productivity. But despite its growing importance, investment in workplace training has stagnated during the last decade, with annual training spend per employee has fallen by 5.6% from £1,620 in 2011 to £1,530 in 2017.
SMEs face barriers which prevent many of them from increasing investment in training. These include a lack of scale, high fixed costs of training and a lack of capacity. 43% of micro and small businesses did not provide any training in 2018, compared to 4% of organisations with 250 or more employees.
The training landscape is complex and does not support the large scale reskilling the UK requires. Provision is overwhelmingly targeted at young people and focused on longer courses and formal qualifications.
Many individuals at risk of automation do not think that their roles will be impacted by technology, and people looking to retrain struggle to find quality information. 68% of workers in the 15 most at-risk automation occupation groups believe it is unlikely that their current job role will be automated in the next 10 years. But individuals looking to retrain face steep challenges in finding quality information on the right jobs and training to take up.
What does the report recommend?
Businesses see the upcoming Spending Review as a golden opportunity for the government to embed these changes and ensure that the coming decade sees a step-change in the UK’s approach to adult learning.
Based on the findings outlined above, the CBI has set out a package of measures, that we believe the government needs to adopt as a first step towards increasing investment in training by businesses, government, and individuals. They include:
- Help small businesses overcome barriers to training investment, such as lack of capacity and resource, by introducing SME tax credits
- Boost overall business investment in skills by turning the Apprenticeship Levy into a Skills and Training Levy which funds high-quality accredited training
- Encourage people to take up new training opportunities by introducing Career Development Accounts which help remove financial barriers
- Ensure thenew flexible loans entitlement is extended to adults of all ages and accommodates shorter bitesize courses, not just longer formal qualifications
- Encourage more people to have a stake in lifelong learning by turning ‘Job Centres’ into ‘Jobs and Skills Hubs’which offer face-to-face support.
Read the full list of recommendations here
We will be engaging with government on the findings and recommendations of this report. We’ll continue to champion critical member views in the next phase of our work on reskilling.
Please get in touch with Ed Richardson for further information on the CBI’s work on lifelong learning.