Third have received no in-work training in last five years, report finds

26 Feb 2020 By Francis Churchill

New study a ‘wake up call’ for businesses to start strategically investing in staff ahead of new immigration rules, say experts

More than a third of working-age people in the UK have received no in-work training in the last five years, a report has found, which experts say is a “wake up call” ahead of more restrictive immigration rules.

The poll of 5,000 people over the age of 18, conducted by City & Guilds and YouGov, found 34 per cent had either received no training in the last five years or had never received any. It estimated this equated to 17.8 million people in the UK.

The report also found 60 per cent of respondents (equivalent to 31.3 million nationally) believed their skills were underutilised, and just 33 per cent felt positive about their future career prospects.

Lizzie Crowley, senior skills policy adviser at the CIPD, said the results were a “wake up call” to businesses, showing the need for them to strategically invest in existing staff to plug potential skills gaps. Crowley said employers should conduct skills audits to maximise the abilities employees have that might be underutilised currently.

“We’ve got an incredibly tight labour market at the moment and employers are struggling to access the skills they need. Brexit and the new immigration policy are only going to exacerbate many of these problems,” she said.

Crowley added that while many businesses might not be investing in skills and training as a result of focusing on shorter-term profits, employers failing to address their skills gaps might find it increasingly difficult to launch new products and services, with this ultimately affecting the bottom line.

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The report found people from lower socio-economic backgrounds were much less likely to have received training in the last five years, as were those working part time.

Kirstie Donnelly, interim CEO at City & Guilds Group, said the report showed that despite record-high employment rates, many people in the UK were “underemployed and could contribute far more to society if given the opportunity”. 

“By unlocking more people’s full potential, we can both increase opportunities for social mobility and help to drive up productivity,” she said.

Jason Fowler, vice president and HR director for Fujitsu UK and Ireland, said employers needed a long-term plan to train and educate their current workforce and future workers. “If we want to continue to see the UK as a ‘digital first’ nation we must ensure we are investing in all talent,” he said.

“From the current workforce to those at the very beginning of the journey, by matching the right skills with the right job and training the workforce for the jobs of tomorrow, we will be able to support the future digital economy.”

The report comes the week after home secretary Priti Patel announced details of the government’s post-Brexit points-based immiagration policy, and called for employers to take steps to end their reliance on low-skilled migrant labour.

But Crowley said in many cases the type of labour companies used depended on the products or services they produced. “If businesses are producing relatively low-value products and services – if they don’t necessarily need skilled people and they’ve been relying on immigrant labour to fill those relatively unskilled jobs – it will be quite difficult to see where they can go to in the future unless they change their business models and upgrade their product market strategy,” she said.

Crowley added that whether businesses were successful in this hinged on the success of the government’s industrial strategy. But there were also things HR could do now to proactively manage the situation, she said: “In many cases the way in which individuals are able to use their skills is very much about the types of policies HR puts in place.”

Employers should provide jobs that give workers autonomy and allow them to problem-solve, Crowley said, highlighting the importance of ensuring good line management.

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