The UK is in the grips of a skills crisis with employers spending less on training than other major EU economies, according to a new report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The analysis found that "two decades of under-investment" has contributed to the country lagging behind its competitors in Europe and most of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on at least four key measures, including literacy and numeracy, learning and development and digital skills.
The UK lies fourth from the bottom on the EU league table on participation in job-related adult learning, with evidence showing a deterioration since 2007.
Furthermore, England and Northern Ireland together rank in the bottom four OECD countries for literacy and numeracy among 16 to 24 year olds.
The CIPD called on the government to make skills funding available to tackle low skills in the workplace.
It also recommended putting skills "at the heart of the industrial strategy".
"What happens inside the workplace has material value and workplace practices - such as training and development, and leadership and line management - have a direct impact on business and economic success. It’s vital that the government’s industrial strategy recognises the value of skills in improving outcomes for individuals, organisations, economy and society," the report pointed out.
Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser for the CIPD and co-author of the report, said:
This is a sobering analysis of the state of skills in the UK. Our report should serve as a real wake-up call for the government to break with the past two decades of failed skills policy and set the UK on a new course that delivers the right results for individuals, organisations and the economy as a whole.
While more efforts are being made to reform education, it’s clear that there needs to be a much greater emphasis on learning and development in the workplace. As we move towards Brexit, and possible restrictions on overseas talent, it’s crucial that government works in partnership with education providers and businesses to address these deep-rooted issues that continue to blight individual and business potential.
Minister for apprenticeships and skills Robert Halfon said: “This government has been honest about the skills shortages we are facing – and that is why we are building an apprenticeships and skills Nation.
“We have introduced the apprenticeship levy which will generate £2.5bn of investment in apprenticeship training by 2020. In 2019 we will begin to roll out 15 high quality technical education routes and have committed to investing an extra half a billion pounds a year into technical education. In addition, we have invested £170m into institutes of technology and £80m on national colleges.
“These measures will improve national prosperity and encourage people to climb the ladder of opportunity.”
A survey released by the British Chambers of Commerce earlier this month showed that UK companies are facing a shortage of digital skills.
The survey found that 84 per cent of firms think digital and IT skills are more important to their businesses than they were two years ago. A total of 76 per cent of businesses said they have a shortage of digital skills in their workforce, ranging from 52 per cent at a slight shortage to three per cent at a critical one.