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Two-thirds of businesses say skills training crucial to post-COVID recovery

The UK workforce gained a potential 94.2 million training hours earlier this year as entire sectors came to a standstill.

That’s according to research from Hays Thrive, which says that as the total number of hours worked plummeted across the country, there’s a strong link between businesses who took advantage of these training hours and those who expect to recover quickly post-COVID.

This is based on recent ONS data which revealed the total number of hours worked in the UK in June dipped by 8.9% compared to the year before.

Link between business recovery and skills training  

The pandemic has severely impacted 71% of organisations in the UK, but there is a strong link between businesses bounce back and training. According to The Open University, 68% of companies confident in their post-COVID recovery have invested in training during lockdown, while 53% of those who are not confident did not.

Two-thirds of organisations have revealed that learning opportunities were crucial to keeping their workforce agile throughout the pandemic. While many companies relied on the digital skills of their staff during lockdown, many say continued training is vital for business growth strategies as we head into the last half of 2020.

Potential training hours across UK sectors

Comparing April to June 2019 and April to June 2020, average actual weekly hours fell by 6.3 hours. With a few exceptions, industries across the board experienced a decrease in actual weekly hours during this time.

  • The accommodation and food service sector saw the largest decrease in actual weekly hours worked year-on-year – a drop from 28.3 hours to 13.0 hours per week, leaving around 15 hours available for skills training a week.
  • Those in education also felt the impact, falling from 28.0 to 21.6 hours per week, resulting in 6.4 potential training hours available every week.
  • Information and communication gained 3.6 possible weekly skills training hours, as actual weekly hours dropped from 35.5 to 31.9.

Leadership, tech & marketing skills in high demand

When asked which technical or specialist skills their organisation needs most, Hays research reveals that 35% of UK employers put managerial and leadership skills at the top of the list. The sectors with the highest demand for these skills currently are:

  • Finance (41%)
  • Human Resources (40%)
  • Healthcare (39%)
  • Office Support (39%)
  • Supply Chain & Logistics (39%)

IT infrastructure skills are also in demand, with 20% of UK employers overall naming this as the skill their organisation needs most. This skill is mostly in demand by large or very large organisations (24%), compared to SMEs at just 15%.

Meanwhile, 15% of UK employers say they need data and analytics skills, 12% are on the hunt for software development skills, and 11% require marketing know-how.

When it comes to soft skills training, the most needed across the UK workforce right now include ‘problem-solving’ at 33% and ‘critical thinking’ at 30%.

Businesses investing in training are more confident of recovery

Companies that have spent time focusing on upskilling their teams are seeing their investments start to pay off, as teams adapt to the changing workplace and the skills gap becomes smaller.

Developing talent from within is often more beneficial and cost-effective than replacing existing employees with new talent. At the same time, re-training those whose roles have become redundant helps to close and prevent other critical skills gaps from arising.