UK ‘falling behind in global skills race’

New research published today by City & Guilds Group, a global skills development body, reveals the UK risks being left behind as employers across the world race to upskill their workers.

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Employees are less confident than their bosses that they’ll have skills they need for the future as digitalisation and changing economies transform the workplace skills needed today.This is the key finding from a study, conducted by City & Guilds Group business Kineo, which surveyed 6,500 employees and 1,300 employers across 13 international markets released today.

UK falling behind on skills

Among the findings were that employers in rapidly emerging economies are among those most likely to ramp up investment in upskilling their workforce in the near future when compared to developed economies such as the UK.A significant 92% of Indian employers and 78% of Kenyan employers surveyed predicted a net increase in learning and development (L&D) investment in the next 12 months, compared to just 54% of employers in the UK.These data come hot off the heels of Relocate Global and Weichert Mobility Services’ Think Global People: Think India webinar, which drew on research that gives insight into rapidly growing talent mobility in the world’s fifth largest economy.It is also released in the wake of the CBI annual conference, where CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn called for a relentless focus on competitiveness because the UK was at a real risk of losing out globally.Ms Fairbairn singled out the importance of reskilling the UK’s workforce so that everyone, from every background, was in a position to prosper in the new technology age. "We simply cannot afford another wasted year of political paralysis, indecision and distraction while productivity and investment suffer," she told delegates in November.

Impact of digital transformation on skills globally

While just 25% of employers in the US and 42% in the UK recognise the impact of digital transformation on their business, significantly more Kenyan (65%) and Indian (62%) employers consider this an important factor driving change.Equally, when it comes to automation and AI, the majority of employers surveyed in Malaysia (60%) and India (58%) found this to be a major driver of change, compared to just 27% of employers in the UK.This are likely among the trends driving the growing volumes of talent mobility into and out of India, and in-country relocations.

UK risks falling behind on skills

Commenting on City & Guilds new research, John Yates, Group Director – Corporate Learning at City & Guilds Group, said: “Businesses worldwide are navigating a period of immense transformation – and this is particularly evident in emerging economies, where organisations are ramping up their investment in L&D as they embrace technology and hone the skills required to compete on a global stage.“However, our study shows investment in skills is less of an immediate priority for employers in the UK – putting us at risk of lagging behind other, more future-focussed countries.“With the workforce becoming increasingly mobile – and the influx of overseas talent crucial to the future of British businesses – UK employers cannot afford complacency.”Mr Yates added that employers “need to listen their workers’ training needs and ensure they continue to focus on upskilling – or they risk losing talent to other markets who are making this a priority.”

Perception gap on skills between UK employees and their employers

With the UK in the middle of a General Election campaign set to determine its future direction and role on the world stage, and upskilling a mainstream political party manifesto pledge, the research showed that while 71% of employees globally recognise 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 confident in 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 organisations who can better meet their training needs.Paul Grainger, Co-Director of the Centre for Post-14 Education and Work, and Head of Enterprise and Innovation for the Department of Education, Practice and Society (EPS) at the UCL Institute for Education added: “With businesses around the world facing different changes and challenges according to the specific economic, cultural, political, demographic and technological factors of their location, they will have to react and develop the skills of their workforce in a way that is specific to their context. “The foreseeable future is likely to be dominated by emerging digital technologies.  These can help individuals and communities to grow, become more agile, develop skills and network with a wider, global community.“As these technologies are able to transcend borders, they help organisations and the communities in which they are based to adapt to the evolving needs of the community and the world at large. They support agility. And as workplace change is increasingly rapid, it is likely that those regions actively engaged in emerging markets will be better placed to manage the tensions between flexibility and predictability.”

Skills and learning in a global organisation - Dermalogica

Candice Gardner, Education Manager Digital & Content at Dermalogica, which City & Guilds cites as a company “doing it right” said: “Effective learning is central to our business. Our culture is highly innovative and dynamic; when we are delivering new products, services and tools at pace in a competitive market, we rely on our people being trained to use, communicate and promote them well. “We have employees in more than 80 countries around the world, so it’s important that our training can be easily adapted to reflect their needs.“In order to deliver valuable training, we need to understand the context in which our staff operate, from specific regulations they are governed by, to the unique social and business culture of each market.“Ultimately, whilst we aim for our core content to be globally applicable, we have to consider each market’s nuances and priorities in order to be relevant – skillsets, demands and trends can vary, and then we have to consider logistics and geography. For example, India doesn’t have formalised training for skin therapists, so we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the practical skills. In the USA, geography is vast and thus getting into a local office or training centre is not always feasible, so digital learning is key. In Russia - where they operate across 11 time zones - learning innovation is essential.“Importantly, we always try to manage employee expectations by being very clear on the aims, objectives and desired outcomes of a session. Language, cultural norms and background can all affect how people interpret content, so we endeavour to test our approach in advance to ensure it meets the needs of learners in different markets. We’ve certainly learned that setting the right expectations more often than not means you achieve the right outcome.”An employee at Dermalogica said: “The training at Dermalogica has played a big role in my development and motivated me to stay not only with the company but in the industry; I’ve been with the brand for 11 years and never once have I felt like I haven’t had opportunities to learn more.“What makes it most engaging is the external insights that the trainers provide. In everything we do, we are helped to understand how it works in context and how it applies to the situation we find ourselves in. The learning becomes addictive – like an obsession because it is so relevant.”

Find out more about what mobile employees in to and out of India are looking for and how you can assist by visiting our India section

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