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Learning to level up

The role of skills in tackling job insecurity through Brexit and Covid-19

Covid-19 has resulted in job losses, reduced hours and heightened insecurity for many workers across the labour market. Against this backdrop and the imminent end to freedom of movement as the UK leaves the EU, the types of jobs available to workers, and the skills in demand by employers, are shifting. Recognising how crucial opportunities for training to develop skills will be in this context, Government recently set out plans to introduce a Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This will provide free intermediate and higher level training courses to individuals in England who do not hold a qualification at or above level 3 (A-Level equivalent).

While this will broaden access to training for many workers, significant barriers to take up remain. In partnership with Totaljobs, this report presents new analysis on barriers to engaging in training among people at the middle of their working lives (between the ages of 25-49). Too often, workers who would benefit most from opportunities to develop new skills face the greatest barriers to taking part in training. For some, balancing work, caring responsibilities and financial commitments proves impossible. For others, a perception that training won’t lead to opportunities for progression can be off-putting.

Drawing on this analysis, the paper sets out practical steps employers and policymakers could take to address these barriers.

Key findings

  • There are approximately 1.4 million mid-career workers with level 3 qualifications in routine/manual occupations who would currently be ineligible for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee or the Kickstart Scheme, but who might benefit from retraining.
  • Many adults will find it difficult to take up new learning opportunities due to a lack of time and financial resources, particularly low-paid workers. For example, up to 1.9 million people with children under the age of 16 may find it difficult to access training opportunities as a result of caring and family responsibilities.
  • Our analysis shows that lower paid mid-career workers are the least likely to access training opportunities – with those in either intermediate or routine and manual skill-level jobs 13% and 12% less likely to have received training than those in managerial roles during 2019.
  • We found that in May, there were 1.4 million mid-career recipients of Universal Credit who were required to spend 35 hours a week looking for a job in order to access their payments, and over 300,000 mid-career recipients of Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance were only permitted to undertake a maximum of 16 hours of training per week.
  • Over 7.5 million mid-career workers have not received any training since leaving full time education, meaning they have no recent experience of engaging in learning and skills development.

Key recommendations for Government

  • Review eligibility for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to maximise access and participation among workers on low pay, recognising that some workers who hold a level 3 qualification may benefit from access to further training.
  • Remove restrictions on engaging in training for individuals receiving welfare benefits like Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit.
  • Offer support with the indirect costs of taking part in training, such as childcare, to workers on low incomes.

Key recommendations for Employers

  • Offer all workers opportunities to explore learning and development routes available to them. Employers should look at ways of investing in the longer-term learning and development of lower paid workers, for example through offering mentoring or coaching, or providing information and advice about low and no cost training.
  • Offer flexible routes to training. Workers with parenting and caring responsibilities experience difficulties in meeting time commitments needed for some training courses. For some workers, combining training with the demands of work is physically exhausting and can impact wellbeing, and this has led to workers dropping out of courses at times. Employers could address this by offering training on a flexible basis. This should include offering training during paid working hours, or providing paid study leave.

Read the full report here