The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned that Britain faces a “stark choice” between investing in workers’ skills and lifelong learning or suffering sustained rates of high unemployment.
The business group said nine out of 10 people will need new skills by 2030 to support the future of the UK economy, requiring an additional £13bn ($16.8bn) a year.
Research carried out before COVID-19 showed there was an urgent need to go further and faster than prime minister Boris Johnson’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the CBI said.
The report also revealed that new technologies and the changing nature of the economy are transforming the skills needed for many jobs, while other roles are being lost entirely.
McKinsey & Company research and economics director, Tera Allas, said: “Technology-driven change is set to transform our economy and society. The emergence and spread of COVID-19 is accelerating many of these trends, and some industries have changed more in the past few months than they had in the past few years.”
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CBI said its analysis alongside McKinsey & Company, also showed failure to invest in skills will harm the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged, as participation in training by those in lower-skilled jobs most at risk of automation is 40% lower than that for higher-skilled workers.
It pointed out the impact of the pandemic saying that it can be a catalyst for action as many Brits are not working at full capacity and could be offered time to train.
“The UK should use this momentum to drive a national reskilling effort to futureproof livelihoods and power UK competitiveness,” CBI said.
The report highlights how changes in the economy, fuelled by digitisation and automation, will dramatically change the skills sought by employers.
CBI says for the UK economy to thrive, 21 million people will need basic digital skills while 16 million Brits will need critical thinking and information processing skills.
Additionally it suggests 15 million people need skills in leadership and management and 14 million will need interpersonal and advanced communication skills. It also says that 9 million will need to build on their STEM knowledge.
CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: “The right skills strategy can help every worker to progress their careers, drive up living standards and level-up the country.
“But a failure to act will leave businesses facing skills shortages and workers facing long-term unemployment. We are at a fork in the road that requires urgent and decisive action.
“The recently announced Lifetime Skills Guarantee is an important step in the right direction, but it is only a start.
“The CBI wants to work with unions, education providers and Government to ensure that employees working fewer hours have as much opportunity as possible to retrain and reskill.”
Retraining is the process of learning a new vocation or skillset, while reskilling refers to the process of updating skills through retraining or upskilling — refreshing or development of skills to keep up to date with technological and business developments.
In September a separate research by Fountech.ai revealed that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic UK business leaders became more open to artificial intelligence (AI). The research also found that, 45% of businesses would implement AI technologies in the next 12 months.
Of the 430 respondents, 55% of UK companies have started exploring how AI could improve their product or service. The figure is highest among small and medium-sized enterprises, at 61% and 66% respectively.
Speaking on investing in the human workforce, Allas, said: “Investing in the UK’s human capital by boosting the skills of our workforce offers a huge opportunity: boosting productivity, improving job satisfaction, and enhancing livelihoods for workers. Achieving this will need a significant shift in current approaches to adult education and to skills investment.
“None of the key groups that need to take action – business, government, the education sector, and workers – can do this alone. To capture the future skills opportunity, we need the partnership of the century.”
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