Lack of essential skills training leads to lower wages, study finds

Those who had access to learning including communication and problem solving at school can earn almost £6k a year more

Workers who missed out on learning leadership, communication and problem-solving skills could earn almost £280,000 less over their lifetime than those who developed these key skills at school, research has suggested.

A poll of 2,262 working-age adults in the UK, conducted by Skills Builder, found that those who had access to these and other essential skills training at school were 81 per cent more likely to have above average abilities in these areas – which equated to an annual salary boost of around £5,900.

However, just 14 per cent of those polled had the opportunity to develop these skills through structured learning, despite more than four in five (83 per cent) reporting that they would like these opportunities.

It also found that a similar proportion (84 per cent) of those polled wanted essential skills to be taught in schools, while almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) said they were important for recruitment and career progression.

Essential skills are worth £88bn to the UK economy and are predicted to be worth £127bn by 2025, according to the Development Economics research group.

Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser at the CIPD, said that essential skills were highly valued by employers and “make a huge difference” to the career progression and earning potential of young people, but that far too few have the opportunity to develop them at school.

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The essential skills gap extends into the workplace, affecting individuals at all ages and stages of their careers, she added. “That’s why we are calling on employers to do more to support individuals to develop these skills too."

The study found that those with higher levels of essential skills were 30 per cent more likely to have had both parents attend university.

Those who have had one or both parents attend university were also 53 and 54 per cent more likely to have scored above average on essential skills, while those with skill scores in the top quartile were 39 per cent more likely to have parents who were very engaged with their education.

In contrast, those in the bottom quartile were 23 per cent less likely to have had a parent attend university; 22 per cent less likely to have had their parents engaged in their education; and 8 per cent more likely to have attended a non-selective state school.

Tom Ravenscroft, chief executive and founder of Skills Builder Partnership, said the study showed the long-term benefits in terms of earnings, progression and wellbeing that both early and lifelong learning provided.

“The UK tends to take essential skills like listening and problem solving for granted, and it’s clearly costing us,” he said, adding that there were “worrying indicators of divergence in life chances due to a lack of skills building opportunities across the nation.”