Lack of soft skills education traps the disadvantaged
Unequal learning opportunities at school are stifling UK wages and life chances
A lack of life skills teaching in school is trapping disadvantaged people across the UK in low-paying, low-skilled jobs for life, a new report has found.
YouGov and social enterprise, Skills Builder Partnership, have revealed a UK skills trap, stemming from school, that is preventing millions of people from accessing a lifetime wage bonus of up to £280,000.
Research with more than 2,000 working-age people, mapping income and demographics into a universal framework of essential and highly transferable skills, shows for the first time how having “soft skills” has a direct impact on income, employment and well-being.
81% from the UK who have had the opportunity to learn essential skills at school have above average abilities such as problem solving and communication. This equates to an annual salary increase of up to £5,900 or just under £500 per month – similar to a graduate bonus. Their risk of not having a job or an education is also reduced by more than half.
This experience contrasts with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have fewer opportunities to develop these skills at school. They are less likely and want to improve their skills at work and ultimately have lower skills, life satisfaction and wages:
- Development & Management – More than half of people who had opportunities to build skills at school develop them more at work, compared to less than a third who did not have opportunities early in life. Almost all workers who had opportunities in school want more, compared to two-thirds who didn’t and chose not to continue their education, putting them on a lower career trajectory. Skills are also higher for those who attended a selective/independent school.
- Location –Essential Skills Levels in England gap behind other parts of the UK whose education systems formalize it in schools. People in the north and east of England have the UK the lowest skills and the fewest opportunities for skill improvement.
- Relatives – You are twice as likely to learn skills at school if your parents are engaged in your education (46%), compared to those whose parents are disengaged (23%). Your skills are higher if you have a parent who went to college.
- Shrinkage options –Chances of catching up on Essential Skills decrease as you get older – only 14% of all workers have already been given the opportunity by their employer to develop them through structured learning – despite 83% want such opportunities. White-collar workers are more than twice as likely to have access to skills-building opportunities as lower-skilled workers.
The data show that the current focus of educators and employers on technical learning and skills is not sufficient to higher level the UK and increase productivity. We call on employers, educators and policy makers to support proven interventions and support meaningful life skills building opportunities to level the playing field.
Creativity is UK the weakest essential skill, with below-average scores that decline with age – worrying for the ‘fifth industrial revolution’. Audiences get the best results when it comes to listening and teamwork.
The UK places a high value on teaching life skills with 84% want to teach it in schools and 89% believing that they are important for recruitment and career progression.
These capabilities are currently worth at least £88bn to the economy and are expected to reach £127bn by 2025, according to research group Development Economics.
The Skills Builder Partnership of 800 employers, educators and impact organizations has helped 1.5 million people in the UK learn life skills over the past year through a universal language and shared approach. It is used by companies like BP, IBM, KPMG and CIPD.
Tom Ravenscroft, CEO and Founder of Skills Builder Partnership, said:
“The UK tends to take life skills such as listening and problem solving for granted – and this is clearly costing us dearly. We have identified worrying indicators of divergence in life chances due to a lack of skill-building opportunities across the country.
There is nothing “soft” about the skills that are essential for life. This study proves, in terms of weight, progression and personal well-being, the benefits of early opportunities and lifelong learning.
Thanks to this research applying a rigorous framework, we can now measure, at the national level, the levels of essential skills as robustly as technical skills or educational ratings.
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