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Looking for new skills online can help increase wages, new report suggest

By Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent

People turning to the internet to learn new skills is helping to boost the UK’s economic output, new research around online learning suggests.

The report indicates that many working people have used internet-based learning to help increase their pay or to help them get a new job.

The research by thinktank Demos, and supported by Google, polled 20,000 people in the UK about their use of online resources.

It also found that nearly a third (30%) of those asked said they had used online learning to start their own business.

Two-thirds of those asked said they use the internet to learn new things for work in the hope it would help them carry out their role more efficiently.

Some 29% said they had used online learning to help get a pay rise, and a third said it had helped them get a new job.

People in London were found to be most likely to have used the internet to learn new things in order to get a new job, with 32% of Londoners asked saying they had done so.

They are followed by those in the West Midlands (23%), the North West (20%) and Scotland (20%).

The report also suggests that many are self-starters when it comes to seeking new skills, with only 18% saying they have done so at the suggestion or request of their employer.

Ronan Harris, managing director of Google UK and Ireland, said of the report: “Skills and productivity are vital to the growth of the UK economy.

“This report from Demos reveals that two-thirds of the UK workforce are using free online resources to improve productivity and that the majority of them are choosing to use search engines and video platforms as their main source of information.

“Given the ubiquitous nature of internet access, we are continuously taking onboard and sharing knowledge with those around us and it’s important that we continue to do so to fully harness the benefits of online learning throughout the UK.”

The research also showed that it is not just work-related skills that people turn to the internet to learn.

It found that learning how to cook is the most searched for skill online, with 36% of those asked saying they had looked to improve their cooking ability, with DIY skills sought by 29% and gardening tips by 24%.

Polly Mackenzie, chief executive of Demos – which carried out the survey, said the research should make businesses “rethink” how they measure the skills of workers.

“This report gives the first real insight into the extent and impact of online learning in the UK,” she said.

“What we found is really encouraging – not just for the businesses and organisations that are benefiting from upskilling employees, but in terms of the economy as a whole.

“Yet there’s a warning here too – if employers fail to support this kind of learning, or fail to recognise the skills that result from it, then we all risk missing out.

“It’s time to radically rethink how we measure professional skills – so we can stop obsessing over qualifications, and focus on developing ability instead.”