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PwC: UK workers want to upskill but not getting the chance

Sep 09
Tags: PwC
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PwC: UK workers want to upskill but not getting the...

In the current era of rapid technological development and digital transformation, it has never been more important for the workforce to continue evolving and acquiring vital skills to drive business growth.

According to recent research by PwC, employees in the UK are particularly keen to upskill or retrain to maximise their value to employers. However, more than half of the respondents to a survey said they aren't getting adequate opportunities to expand their range of professional capabilities.

An appetite to learn

The 'Upskilling Hopes and Fears' study was based on the opinions of more than 22,000 people in 11 markets around the world.

Findings in the UK suggested that more than half (54 per cent) of workers - and two-thirds (67 per cent) of those aged between 18 and 34 - felt ready to learn new skills or retrain in order to boost their future employability. Only 11 per cent said they would not be willing to go down this path.

When asked about the possibility of losing their job because of automation, respondents showed a willingness to take various actions to stay in employment, including:

  • Pursue training, either part-time (73 per cent) or full-time (49 per cent)
  • Start their own business (41 per cent)
  • Accept a lower-level position in another company or industry (39 per cent)
  • Accept a lower salary (33 per cent)

Carol Stubbings, global head of people and organisation at PwC, said the clear willingness of workers to learn new skills is an opportunity that employers should seize.

"Too often assumptions are made about the type of worker who should be upskilled, so the opportunities are not evenly spread," she added. "The government's National Retraining Scheme is a positive step forward - there's a huge amount to be done."

Are employers doing their bit?

UK workers are willing to invest in their own professional development, according to the PwC research, but in many cases employers are failing to meet their staff halfway. The findings showed that just over half (51 per cent) of respondents in the UK had been offered no opportunities to upskill.

This could be fuelling perceptions among nearly six out of ten UK adults (58 per cent) that automation is putting jobs at risk.

In contrast, the countries taking the most positive approach to upskilling were found to have the best attitudes towards adopting new technologies in the workplace. In India and China, for example, seven out of ten workers think automation presents more opportunities than risks.

Other findings from the PwC study highlighted inequalities in the provision of upskilling opportunities, often linked to gender, education level and age.

More than half of male respondents (54 per cent) said their employer had given them the opportunity to acquire new skills, compared to only 45 per cent of women.

Similarly, 56 per cent of university graduates told PwC they had received upskilling opportunities, but only 41 per cent of those educated to school leaver level said the same.

Kevin Ellis, the professional services firm's UK chairman, described the mismatch between the skills currently available in the workforce and those needed in today's digital world as a "major global challenge".

He added: "While technology will likely create as many jobs as it displaces, people need to learn new skills and develop their understanding in order to adapt. Without combined efforts from governments, businesses and NGOs, swathes of people risk being left behind, exacerbating social and economic inequalities.

"The UK's track record in education and innovation means we're phenomenally well-placed to step up and take action."


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