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Skills Gap threatens UK recovery

  • Inadequate training 'greatest threat' to British firms
  • 'Obsolete' skills jeopardise upturn
  • Learning & Development functions failing to deliver


    A significant skills gap in the British workforce threatens to damage UK Plc’s response to economic upturn, according to a new study by Capita Learning & Development.

    Read an executive summary of the report.

    The majority (70%) of business leaders fear that inadequate staff skills are the greatest threat to their ability to capitalise on the recovery.

    More than two thirds of business leaders admit that their under-trained workforce is struggling to cope with expanded job remits following waves of job cuts during recession. Worryingly, as the economy moves out of the downturn, two fifths (40%) of leaders estimate that at least half of employee skills risk becoming obsolete.

    The study attributes the problem to the inability of companies’ Learning and Development (L&D) functions to adapt to strategic change. L&D departments have failed to deliver the skills businesses needed to fight recession and position for growth.

    The research is based on the opinions of senior decision makers among the UK’s largest 500 firms.

    Chris Sharp, Managing Director, Capita Learning & Development, comments: “The post-recession landscape demands a range of new skills. Yet the UK workforce is critically lacking essential capabilities.

    “Firms have failed to provide the right training through turbulent times and arm their staff with the skills needed for recovery. There is a real risk that this will leave UK Plc exposed when the upturn finally arrives.”

Mind the Skills Gap

Senior managers are concerned about their staff’s ability to adapt to the demands of the changing business environment.

Over a third of leaders (36%) lack confidence that their employees have the skills required to deliver the firm’s upturn strategy, with close to half (46%) casting doubt on their L&D department’s ability to provide these learning services.

Over half (55%) claim that their firm is failing to deliver the necessary training for recovery. Around half fear for their company’s ability to respond to surges in demand (51%), retrain and redeploy people where required (47%) and identify where current skills are becoming obsolete (49%).

Even more worryingly, workers are still struggling to catch up with the impact of recession. More than two thirds (67%) of business leaders are concerned their employees are struggling to cope with expanded remits following job cuts.

Chris Sharp comments: “UK companies need to take urgent action to bring the skills and capabilities of their staff up to speed with the demands of a changing business environment.

“Failure to do so will hamper firms’ ability to manage organisational change, and risk UK Plc falling behind the global competition in an upturn.”

The L&D Lag

Business leaders are more critical of their L&D function’s ability to adapt to their firm’s needs as the economy moves from recession to fragile recovery.

More than half (52%) describe their L&D function as slow to respond to the changing requirements of their business during economic turbulence.

As strategic objectives have evolved, close to half (46%) of senior managers report no significant change in the training delivery to their workforce. Going forward, almost as many (43%) expect no significant change to L&D delivery over the next 2-3 years.

The vast majority (82%) of leaders lack confidence that their firm’s L&D strategy and delivery are aligned to the company’s operational strategy. Half (50%) believe that their L&D function is stuck in a ‘business as usual’ mindset.

Chris Sharp comments: “As companies now position for growth, L&D strategy needs to catch up fast and evolve in line with firms’ recovery strategies.”

About the research

The findings are based on opinion research among senior decision makers at 100 of the UK’s largest 500 firms by turnover.

Read an executive summary of the report.

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