UK investment in L&D ‘lagging behind’ international competition

Research finds employers in emerging economies more likely to increase skills budget

Employers in the UK are not investing enough in learning and development and are falling behind more ‘future focused’ international competitors, a new report has found.

The research, produced by City & Guilds Group, found that only half (54 per cent) of UK employers expected to increase their spend on skills development in the next 12 months, at a time when businesses in other markets are investing in preparing their workforces for the future.

The report said businesses in emerging markets in particular were more likely to put money into L&D. More than nine in 10 (92 per cent) Indian employers and 78 per cent of Kenyan employers said they expected to increase their L&D spend in the next year.

Companies in Australia and the US were also more likely to say they expected to increase L&D spend than the UK, at 67 per cent and 64 per cent respectively.

John Yates, group director for corporate learning at City & Guilds Group, said organisations in emerging economies were “ramping up investment” in L&D to make the most of technological advances. But he said: “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.

“Employers need to listen to their workers’ training needs and ensure they continue to focus on upskilling – or they risk losing talent to other markets [that] are making this a priority.

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“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 report, which surveyed 6,500 employees and 1,300 employers internationally, also found significant differences in terms of how confident individuals were that their skills and employability were being improved by their businesses.

Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of UK respondents agreed their employer had improved their employability. This compared to 26 per cent in France, 42 per cent in the US, 45 per cent in Kenya and 52 per cent in India.

On-the-job training was highlighted as a key learning method globally, with a third of employers saying it will become more important in the next three to five years. In the UK, that number is slightly higher, at 40 per cent.

Dr Kim Schofield, general manager of HR standards and practice at the Australian HR Institute, said the pace of technological advancement meant it was difficult for employers to predict what skills would be necessary in the future, but that now more than ever L&D needed to be tied to workforce planning.

“L&D traditionally has taken a more collateral-based approach, whereas now it needs to be much more connected to workforce planning for the future, partnering with HR and the business to understand where the business is going and predicting the skills that will be needed. They will need to look at not just bringing in new talent, but also how they upskill people in the workplace,” said Schofield.