Research released today reveals that nearly a third of workers in the UK have actively taken measures to upskill through extra training and qualifications in the past five years.
Thanks to a rise in flexible working, an increase in online learning courses, an uncertain economic climate, and with Brexit talks looming, UK workers are seeing now as a good time to learn new skills.
The findings also show the range of British workers’ motivations for upskilling, including self-improvement, refreshing their skillset and protecting themselves from automation due to fears their current job may become obsolete.
The move to upskill often comes with rewards for many Brits. Of those who have upskilled, almost a fifth have seen this pay off, with either a promotion or a pay rise thanks to their new skills, and over half have used their new skills to make extra money. Almost half of Brits believe learning new skills through courses or further training would significantly enhance their earning potential. The reasons to upskill don’t stop there though; over three quarters say the UK could boost its overall productivity if more people took the time to learn new skills.
Flexible working effect
Flexible working has also had a part to play in the rise of the self-improving British worker. Over a fifth of Brits said the introduction of flexible working hours has allowed them to find time to invest in their own professional development, with almost two thirds believing that flexible working should be available to all workers so that they can find time to upskill themselves. More enterprising Brits have resorted to using their lunch breaks to further their career, with 18 per cent of workers admitting to learning new skills in the lunch hour.
Turning hobbies into money makers
The opportunity to learn new skills has also enabled workers to turn their passions into money makers. A third of Brits have used a hobby or passion project to make extra money; of these, eight per cent used their passion and skills to set up their own business.
The costs of upskilling
However, for many would-be upskillers, cost is clearly the main barrier to further development. Over six in 10 Brits believe learning new skills through face-to-face courses/training is too expensive for the average person, with most Open University courses costing £5,000. Instead, just under half are more likely to consider an online learning/training courses as they are significantly cheaper. Indeed, online courses are the most popular method for self-improvement, with 39 per cent upskilling this way. University courses and night school were the second and third preferred options.
Most popular new skills
Administrative skills have proved to be the most popular type of new skill to learn, with nearly a fifth of upskillers choosing this area in the past five years. More unusually, one in 50 of Brits who have upskilled in the past five years said they’d learnt psychic/mystical skills such as Tarot Reading, showing the wide range of new skills and courses available.
Top five most popular areas for upskilling:
- Administrative – 19 per cent
- Medical – 10 per cent
- Accounting/Finance – 9 per cent
- Teaching – 9 per cent
- Coding/software development/programming – 6 per cent
Younger people are by far the most likely to upskill in preparation for the future. Almost half of Brits aged 18 to 34 have upskilled in the past five years with a further 15 per cent admitting they haven’t yet, but would like to. The research also reveals that women are perhaps preparing more for the future than men, as five per cent more women learnt new skills in the past five years than men.
On a regional level, Londoners are the most likely to have upskilled, with 40 per cent having done so in the past five years, 10 per cent higher than the national average of 30 per cent. Northern Ireland is the second highest region for upskillers, closely followed by South West England and Scotland. Those in the East of England are the least likely to have learnt new skills in the past five years, with less than a quarter.
Jon Wilson, MD at Groupon UK, commented: “No matter how old you are, where you live, or what stage in life you’re at, you should always have the opportunity to keep learning. For some, the cost of traditional face-to-face courses is a barrier which is why we’re now seeing such strong demand from customers for high quality yet affordable online learning courses. Whether it’s to improve yourself, chase down a promotion, or future-proof your career, there’s plenty of reasons to learn new skills.”