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'Double threat' COVID-19 and Brexit fails to force UK workers to upskill

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·Contributor
·2-min read
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Source: Getty Creative
Two-thirds (66%) of UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) employees have not undertaken skills training or professional development since the start of 2020. Photo: Getty

An employability skills gap that has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit has left UK workers unable to upskill, according to new research by The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

According to CIMA’s annual Mind the Skills Gap report, 66% of UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) employees have not undertaken skills training or professional development since the start of 2020. Another 65% of UK SMEs have identified skills gaps in their organisation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To be successful in both the post-Brexit and COVID-19 world, the UK must change its attitudes to workplace learning or risk being left behind,” said Andrew Harding, chief executive of Management Accounting.

“Results from our 2020 Mind the Skills Gap research show a clear mismatch between the skills employers say they need, and the amount of skills training employees say they have had. This time however, under the current economic circumstances, the stakes are higher for business.”

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He pointed out that 67% of UK SMEs have accelerated their organisation’s digital transformation as a result of COVID-19, yet nearly 78% believe their current workforce has the right skills to support their organisation’s digital transformation journey.

At least 200,000 jobs have disappeared or are at risk in corporate Britain as a result of COVID-19. According to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) recovery modelling for the second half of 2020, even the most optimistic scenario assumes that the global loss of working hours would fall by 1.2% — equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs — compared with the last three months of 2019.

Skills continue to be a key part of the UK government’s agenda as workers seek to remain relevant amid rising unemployment in the face of a stagnating economy precipitated by the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the UK government announced tens of thousands of adults will benefit from hundreds of free courses next year, including engineering, health, construction, and accountancy. They will be available to adults without a full qualification at Level 3 (A-level equivalent) from April 2021 to help them gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities.

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