The UK is Falling Behind in the Global Skills Race

The UK’s skills crisis is a well-documented issue – one that threatens the prosperity of our future workforce and economy. But it’s not just an issue that is solely impacting us at home. Talent shortages and an ever-evolving skills landscape – brought on by the impact of digitalization – are causing problems in organizations globally, as the world grapples with the changing nature of work.

But worryingly, when examining the UK’s skills gap through a global lens, the results show an even greater cause for concern. New research from City & Guilds Group reveals that the UK is lagging behind in the global battle to upskill, as employers around the world race to train their workers to ensure their businesses are fit for the future.

The competition is on

As advancements in technology and fluctuating economies transform the skills needed in the workplace today, investment in skills and learning and development (L&D) programs will be key to ensuring businesses can fend off competition and stay afloat.

However, our research found that employers in developing countries with emerging economies are the most likely to ramp up investment in training their workforce in the near future, leaving developed economies like the UK in their wake. A significant 92% of Indian employers and 78% of Kenyan employers predicted a net increase in L&D investment in the next 12 months, compared to just 54% of employers in the UK.

This is even more concerning considering the UK workforce already feels dissatisfied with the training that’s available to them. Only 13% of UK employees would rate the L&D opportunities they’ve received at their organization over the past year as very effective, compared to 31% in India.

The employer-employee discrepancy

The research also unveiled a worrying discrepancy between how employers and employees perceive skills gaps. While 71% of employees globally recognize that the skills they need to do their job will change in the next 3-5 years, only 66% of UK workers think their employer is keeping pace with changing skills – lower than the global average.

However, UK employers are much more assured of their workforce, with 75% saying they’re confident they have the skilled staff they need for the next 3-5 years. This highlights a worrying perception gap, that – unless addressed – could lead to lower retention rates and compromised service levels and opportunities as employees seek out organizations who can better meet their training needs. It is critical that employers and employees in the UK work together to ensure the training being delivered in their organization is meeting both the needs of the individual and the longer-term objectives of the business as a whole.

A workforce that’s armed for the future

Although businesses around the world are navigating a period of immense transformation, it is perhaps fair to say that nowhere is this more evident than in the UK, where our future remains increasingly uncertain after Brexit.

For generations, British businesses have relied on an influx of overseas talent in order to succeed. While it remains to be seen what the full impact of Brexit will be, it seems more than likely that access to international talent will be restricted – causing the skills crisis to get worse before it improves.

About the author: John Yates, Group Director for Corporate Learning, City & Guilds Group

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