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Majority of UK professionals say employers ‘neglecting their desire to upskill’

97 per cent of UK professionals cited a desire to upskill in order to stay relevant, yet only 5 percent feel their employer considers upskilling staff essential.

That’s according to the latest UK Skills Report from Resource Solutions, which says more than half (51 percent) of professionals surveyed indicated their concern about automation replacing all or parts of their current job.

The desire to stay relevant in the workspace is driving professionals to demand upskilling opportunities. 35 percent of professionals aged 18 – 42 feel left behind, as they reported the COVID-19 pandemic changed the skills needed to perform their job. The generation most willing to upskill is Millennials, of which 98 percent are wanting to learn new skills.

Norma Gillespie, CEO of Resource Solutions, said: “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. Business leaders are all aware of the skills gap, they’ve been reading and talking about it for years, even more so in recent months as it’s widened by both the pandemic and Brexit. But what businesses need now is a solution-based answer – it’s clear from this survey’s findings that upskilling is that solution.”

Baby Boomers, those currently aged 55+ and Gen X, between 43 – 54, favour upskilling and training in digital skills over all others. While Gen Z (25 percent) and Millennials (22 percent) cite interpersonal skills, like persuasion and negotiation as key skills they’d like to develop. Career progression is high on their agenda too, as 33 percent of both generational groups see it as the main motivation for upskilling.

Despite employees’ clear wish to upskill themselves, 43 percent feel they lack time outside of work, and 36 percent stated their current workload is preventing them. With increased burdens thanks to the pandemic, and increased workloads due to staff shortages, it comes as no surprise that staff are burnt out and time-poor.

“Focus is needed on education and training as a cornerstone of a business’s recruitment drive to strengthen and create an engaged workforce, as well as the need to foster accessibility, diversity, and inclusion. 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,” continued Gillespie.

While the demand is there from all ages and skills levels within the UK workforce, 20 percent feel that upskilling opportunities are only offered to those at Manager level or above, and unfortunately 14 percent have seen a decrease in upskilling opportunities by their employer.

Gillespie added: “Business leaders need to take action to future proof their workforce through skills development, and they need to be addressing it across all age groups and experience levels. 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, both against peers in terms of business results, and in the hiring market too.”

Gillespie’s advice to business leaders and employers to solve the skills shortage:

  • Be hyper-focused on skills development across all departments, levels, experience, and age. There is a desire across the board to upskill, so endeavour to meet these expectations.
  • Be mindful of the skills both the company and employees will need to stay competitive, not just for tomorrow, but in three to five years’ time.
  • Prioritise providing growth opportunities within the existing workforce, rather than hiring to plug gaps.
  • Make sure training opportunities are measurable, and review employees’ progression. You’re providing the foundation to learn, are they meeting their objectives to future-proofing their roles.
  • Reshape roles in order to free up valuable time needed to train and upskill.

The survey of 1,001 professionals from across the UK was conducted in July 2021 by Resource Solutions.