Tune into any news channel on any day of the week and you’re likely to hear about the problems afflicting UK productivity. What’s causing them? One reason is a mismatch of skills. In this post, we look at the current skills challenges and the role eLearning can potentially play in addressing them.
The challenge for UK skills
Recent reports looking at recruitment and skills in the UK demonstrate that there is a real challenge for employers. Whilst employment rates are at a record high, businesses report that they are struggling to find the right workers.
- 60% of construction SMEs – businesses with fewer than 250 employees – say they are having trouble hiring bricklayers,
- 58% say they can’t find the right carpenters and joiners,
- 45% say they’re facing challenges employing plumbers.
In fact, 40% of construction SMEs report that skills shortages are at their highest since 2013. Research carried out by Totaljobs, which surveyed 1,355 employers, found that nearly two-thirds of employers believed that their businesses would suffer because workers lacked key skills. And over half of these employers concluded that the skills gap would mean that the UK would no longer be able to compete on the global stage. In fact, according to the Local Government Agency, by 2024 there will be a shortage of 4 million highly skilled workers and 6 million low skilled workers working within the UK economy.
Why is this happening?
That’s hard to say for certain, but recent studies point to two core reasons. The first is education. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, (OECD), measures educational attainment across its member countries. The UK is ranked 20th globally for attainment in English and math, with a fifth of young adults below a basic level. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills has predicted that the proportion of the adult population qualified to intermediate level is likely to fall to 34% by 2020, placing the UK 28th out of the 32 OECD nations.
The potential Brexit effect?
- First, people are worried about the future, so are staying in their jobs for longer. This means that there are less available skills in the recruitment pool.
- UK government restrictions on migrants mean that fewer people are coming into the country to take up vacancies.
- Studies have shown that as many as a third of non-UK workers are thinking about leaving the country in the next five years.
Why does the skills gap pose such a problem?
Simply put productivity. The UK government has estimated that better skills could improve productivity by 20 percent. There are other reasons, too. Recruitment is taking longer. Companies are making more use of recruitment agencies and temporary staff. Finding the right people often means offering higher wages. All this means that the skills gap is costing firms money. Estimates put this cost at as high as £2 billion per year.
What can we do – a role for eLearning?
The skills gap is a clearly a long-term challenge for the UK economy. And there are long and short-term ways to address it. One would be for UK companies to work more closely with schools and colleges, to make sure the skills being taught are those required in the workplace. This will take time.
A quicker course of action is for companies to invest much more in training. This shift in focus would mean that businesses would be better placed to upskill their existing employees and cast their net more widely, looking to other professions to recruit new staff and offering training packages that develop the specific skills they need. Such an approach is already being seen. The British Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey shows that both the manufacturing and services sectors have increased their investment in training in 2018, by 22 percent and 18 percent respectively. eLearning is becoming a focus for training investment. Partly, this is due to the generational shift in the workforce with Gen Y and Z being digital natives and expecting to learn from screens rather than whiteboards. eLearning is also more agile, and better able to keep pace with the constantly changing technology that is present in today’s workplace.
Delivering in-house training through eLearning
This investment calls for a new approach to delivering in-house training, one that focuses on company-specific, rather than generic, needs. That’s where EssentialSkillz can help. Our approach couples a Learning Management System – used to deliver the content – with a rapid authoring tool – used to write the content. This means that each company is in control of the content they deliver. The authoring tool enables subject experts within your company to create bite-sized chunks of training materials, couched within your specific culture and context. These chunks can then be delivered through the LMS, which can also track who’s taken part, and how well they’ve understood the information. This saves money and time. But, more importantly, it puts you in control of your training.
Plan for the long term but react to the short term
Obviously, eLearning is not the answer when it comes to equipping the next generation of Bricklayers, Carpenters or Plumbers, with the practical skills they need to do their job. However, if you are hiring people with scarce skills training counts. Having a comprehensive internal training programme that includes Health & Safety, Compliance topics and company-specific learning on values and culture is a way to show your employees that they are valued and reduce turnover while increasing productivity. A well thought out programme will also help in the battle for talent when applicants have choices on the table and are looking beyond the salary and at the company as a whole.
There is an urgent need for employers to engage in longer-term training partnerships involving government, schools, colleges and trade bodies. In the short term, the priority should be controlling your environment and ensuring employees are inducted correctly – trained and invested in from day one.
So, if you need to address a skills gap in your business, get in touch today. Our solutions could be just what you need. We offer over 40 pre-written courses, however, they are all editable by you, so they can be made specific to your companies culture, language and procedures.
If you would like to learn more about creating eLearning content for your organisation, why not register for our free webinar:
“Micro-Learning: Can you create an eLearning course in less than 30 Minutes?”