Independent poll reveals surge in desire to upskill amid UK’s second lockdown

Employers are increasingly recognising the value of recruiting talent with a diverse range of skills

An independent poll launched yesterday (11 November) has unveiled a surge in the desire to upskill, boosting employers’ awareness of the value of recruiting increasingly diverse skill sets.

Conducted by Prospectus Global and commissioned by Avado, the survey sought to explore the public’s lockdown learning habits and experiences since the first COVID-19 lockdown in March this year.

Thirty-two percent of survey respondents confirmed their participation in free upskilling activities, with 37% stating that they have funded their own learning. A further 31% of those who had taken part in training in the last eight months claimed it had been paid for by their employer.

The research also uncovered notable discrepancies between age groups, showing that employers have invested most in those aged 45–59, spending an average of £1,989 per head. Those in the 16–29 age bracket on the other hand, were 10% more likely to be out of pocket due to funding their own learning, paying an average of £1,159 on personal development.

Acknowledging the growing interest in nurturing new skills, many companies have launched free learning programmes to support the professional development. Despite this, two in three (63%) survey respondents don’t consider reputation to be an important factor when choosing a learning provider, thus exposing the UK’s potential pool of talent to irrelevant or outdated skills training. Descriptors such as ‘boring’ and ‘irrelevant’ were signposted as defining factors of ‘bad’ learning (47% each), with respondents struggling to identify what most experts would select as important aspects of high-quality learning programmes.

Surprisingly, only 26% of respondents recognised the value of interaction with fellow learners, while 22% said the same for collaborative learning activities.

“For the UK economy to adapt, there must be an equal investment to help reduce the growing skills gap and invest in the future” – Mark Creighton, Avado

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“There’s a real problem here that people aren’t receiving a connected learning experience, or even understand what that is,” said Christine Oliver, learning solutions director at Avado. “There are many cases where fundamental elements of learning design are being left out, although many people don’t appear to realise what they are missing if they can’t spot a real learning provider. Humans are social animals, and learning is enhanced when we talk through new information with peers, which is quite a different process from interaction with a tutor.”

On a positive note, almost half of respondents (49%) felt their general knowledge has improved in the months following the UK’s first lockdown, whilst 46% felt they had progressed their knowledge at work. Additionally, 32% had secured promotions or new jobs in this same period, and the majority (90%) of participants agreed that they had used their new learnings at work after completing their course, with 94% of these people stating that it inspired personal development.

In terms of learning impact, the research concludes that people generally enjoy learning and actively seek to progress their careers. Forty-eight percent chose to learn simply because they enjoy it and want to invest in their development – far ahead of second most cited reason, which was employer-mandated learning (23%).

Mark Creighton, CEO of Avado, commented: “It is clear that young people value learning highly, and there is an opportunity for progressive employers to invest more in this generation far earlier, to support retention and shape the future skills that will be most relevant to their organisations. A lack of quality learning in this age group has negative implications for employers and the economy. For the UK economy to adapt, there must be an equal investment to help reduce the growing skills gap and invest in the future.


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