A new report from the National Institute of Adult continuing Education (NIACE) highlighting social mobility as a key barrier to continued learning has been welcomed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
Findings in the NIACE Participation in Learning survey show that while 54% of those in higher socio–economic classes have taken part in learning during the past three years, just 35% of skilled manual workers have done so.
For unskilled workers and those on limited incomes the figure falls to just over a quarter (26%).
The survey also found a decline in the numbers of unemployed people having taken part in learning during the same timeframe – falling by 7% to just over a third (35%).
Vicki Belt, Assistant Director of UKCES, said:
These findings are concerning, and show that there is much room for improvement when it comes to participation in learning, and the development of new skills – especially among those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The figures also point to a further concern that those currently not in work are also not getting opportunities to improve and develop their skills.
The result is a dangerous Catch-22 – such individuals may be unable to find work as a result of a lack of skills, yet simultaneously unable to maximise opportunities to develop the abilities and experience they need.
The study also highlights some of the key issues being addressed as part of UKCES’ UK Futures Programme – a series of competitions offering collaborative funding to solve a range of specific skills issues.
Competitions have so far taken place on a series of themes, including improving progression opportunities within retail and hospitality, and reducing the gender pay gap for women in care, cleaning and catering industries.
The NIACE survey was partly funded by UKCES, which will now be doing further analysis on the findings into issues surrounding career progression.