Last reviewed 3 August 2021

According to the 2021 CBI/Birkbeck, University of London Education and Skills Survey, 41% of employers plan on increasing investment in training compared with pre-Covid levels in response to accelerating changes to work.

The April 2021 survey, completed by 252 respondents, revealed that over the next three to five years, companies expect to have greater need for people with skills at entry level (balance of +31%), intermediate level (+38%) and higher level (+39%).

While employers expect the need for other workplace skills, unattached to qualifications, such as communication and teamwork to increase (+41%), they are the least confident about meeting these skills needs (+34%).

Overall, developing workforce industry-specific technical knowledge (60%), leadership and management (58%) and advanced digital skills (44%) are priorities for firms.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said: “Firms are currently facing a perfect storm of staff shortages worsened by rising levels of self-isolation. They’re taking immediate steps to resolve this, investing in skills and automation and strengthening inclusion. But the Government needs to play its part too on skills and immigration.”

Longer-term, he continued, the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is an opportunity to deliver on the confidence of most firms that they can meet skills needs in three to five years’ time.

The CBI believes that adult education and lifelong learning will be vital to support the nine in 10 employees needing to gain new skills by 2030. Half of the firms surveyed reported increasing their investment in adult education and lifelong learning over the last five years.

This number is set to rise to 61% in the next five years.

“While it’s vital SMEs continue to be supported to deliver apprenticeships, this should be funded through general taxation”, Mr Fell said. “Meanwhile, introducing a Lifelong Learning Levy would incentivise every business to invest more in the different types of training needed to support our economy. We need two separate policies to meet two very different objectives.”

Comment from BrightHR’s CEO Alan Price

The coronavirus pandemic coupled with Brexit and the staff shortages it has caused in certain industries, it is not surprising to see employers making this move.

At 41%, the number remains low as employers prioritise business recovery due to the impact of the pandemic; but we may soon see a rise in the number of employers choosing to increase investment in training as the UK economy returns to pre-pandemic levels.