UKCES survey highlights ‘skills potholes’ in the UK

More than two in five businesses operating in the UK do not provide training opportunities for their staff, according to research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

The survey, one of the largest ever undertaken in the world, also found that less than half of people in semi-skilled roles had received training in the past year.

Jeremy Anderson, chairman of global financial services practice at KPMG and a commissioner at the UKCES, said: “Some employers are outstanding at training their staff, but many are not.

“This has led to the development of so-called ‘skills potholes’ – areas, sectors or occupations which are suffering from deep, painful and persistent skills gaps.

“Like potholes they are often ignored, but risk making the road to economic recovery throughout the UK bumpier and slower than it needs to be.”

The UKCES survey found that employers in the UK spent a total of £49 billion on training during the 12 months prior to being interviewed.

Businesses well equipped with the skills that training brings are most likely to succeed.”

However, 45 per cent of respondents said they didn’t have a training plan or budget for training expenditure.

Mr Anderson added: “By encouraging employers to step up and take greater responsibility for the skills needs of their people we will help to align public and private investment in skills and fill in these potholes.

“But there are simple things that employers must do to help themselves, such as seeing training as an investment not a cost, being clear on what outcomes should be achieved from training and ensuring that employees have the opportunity not only to be trained but to put their training into practice.

“These simple steps can make a real difference.”

The Skills Survey 2011, which involved more than 85,000 interviews held between March and July last year, found that “elementary occupations” such as bar staff, cleaners, taxi drivers and machinists were the least likely to receive new or additional training.

However, the survey did find that 70 per cent of staff in the personal service industries, including child-minders, care assistants and nurses, had received training in the past 12 months.

John Hayes MP, minister of state for further education, skills and lifelong learning, said: “Businesses well equipped with the skills that training brings are most likely to succeed.

“We know that businesses that don’t train their staff are twice as likely to fail and there’s a very strong link between low skills, poverty and unemployment.”

Eighty per cent of employers who said they were struggling to fill vacancies due to a lack of skilled applicants admitted that it was forcing their staff to take on an increased workload.

Businesses later added that it was having “rising knock-on effects” on both morale and retention of staff.

“More direct impacts on performance were also commonly cited (47 per cent of those with any skill-shortage vacancies say they struggle to meet customer service objectives, 45 per cent have had to delay developing new products or services and 44 per cent have lost business to competitors), risking the competitiveness of the business,” the survey report reads.

The UKCES survey also found that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of employers in the UK had recruited at least one student straight out of university in the two or three years prior to the survey.

The research says most employers found students leaving education to be well prepared for the workplace, increasing with age and the standard of qualification they’ve achieved.

“Where recruits were considered poorly prepared for work this was most often put down to a lack of experience (of the world of work or, more generally, life experience or maturity), or to personality (poor attitude, or a lack of motivation),” the report reads.