Just one in 20 workers think their employer prioritises upskilling, report finds

But professional development remains a high priority for staff, a third of whom feel left behind by the pandemic

Just one in 10 workers feel their employer is prioritising skills development, even though the vast majority want to boost their skills, according to new research.

A poll of 1,000 UK professionals, conducted by Resource Solutions, found that while 97 per cent were keen to upskill, just 5 per cent said that their employer saw upskilling as essential.

The research also found that although a third (34 per cent) felt left behind by the pandemic because it had changed the skills they needed to perform well in their job, 40 per cent thought employers put upskilling either low on their agenda, or did not not consider it at all.

Additionally, half (51 per cent) of those surveyed worry about automation replacing some or all of their jobs, increasing to 63 per cent among directors and C-suite professionals.

Norma Gillespie, CEO of Resource Solutions, said that the pandemic had brought concerns about automation into focus. “The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for change as it sped up the digital agenda, along with economic uncertainty, which drove greater automation concerns among employees,” she said.

Gillespie called on businesses to prioritise education and training in order to create an engaged workforce. “It’s essential to break down barriers to upskilling, most notably the lack of time, or businesses risk losing their employees to other companies that do,” she said.

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“Organisations must identify the skills required and the skills transferable within their employees and invest heavily in reskilling and upskilling strategies. Not only will this meet the clear desire and expectation from staff at every stage in their career, but it’s also vital in order to stay competitive within the market,” she said.

The poll found that age groups cited career progression as a factor in their willingness to upskill in their jobs, with 33 per cent reporting this. However, one in five (20 per cent) said that upskilling opportunities were only available to those at manager level and above. Additionally, 14 per cent said that they had seen a decrease in upskilling opportunities.

The report found that millennials, who are in their 20s and 30s, were more likely to report that barriers prevented them from upskilling: 16 per cent in this group say that nothing prevents them from learning a new skill, compared to 32 per cent of workers in their 50s or older.

Paul Warner, director of strategy and business development at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), said that the current skills gap posed a huge challenge to employers, and urged the government to support businesses in upskilling their employees.

“Although we welcome recent moves to open up the level 3 adult offer to allow those in low-pay work to access free qualifications regardless of any prior qualifications, we believe this should be extended to allow more people to upskill while working,” he said.

“More fundamentally, the way in which the adult education budget is allocated currently leaves gaps in provision and should be reformed to ensure we have a system which puts learners first,” said Warner.