Skill up to keep up: why tech-powered learning holds the key to business growth - Business Leader News

Skill up to keep up: why tech-powered learning holds the key to business growth

In this article, Anand Chopra-McGowan, General Manager, UK & Europe at Emeritus, gives the case for why tech-powered learning holds the key to business growth.

2022 is shaping up to be a defining year for the UK economy. As it builds back from the pandemic, addressing the UK skills gap will be central to supporting growth ambitions, and it’s time to look at fresh, effective approaches to do so.

The Government has indicated clearly that its priorities lie in healthy economic recovery, a push to ‘level-up’ every corner of the UK, and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The UK’s workforce holds the key to achieving these ambitions, so how can we bring our businesses ‘up-to-skill’, so to speak?

The conclusive case for upskilling

The need for upskilling is urgent – the World Economic Forum tells us that half of all employees worldwide will need reskilling by 2025 to keep pace with changes to technology and ways of working. But one in every four workers doesn’t currently feel adequately trained to do their job, because increasingly, the nature of their work is shifting. Data, automation, and wider digital transformations mean that workers require highly specific skills and training to now keep up with the complex challenges of tomorrow’s world.

PwC research shows 77% of employees are ready to learn new skills to remain employable in the future. Investing in people and their learning is both needed and wanted, and businesses can’t afford to miss the proverbial memo.

While the case for upskilling is compelling, hurdles remain. A survey of UK employers reveals that the biggest barrier to meeting their skills needs through adult education and training is limited funding or costly courses. These obstacles are no longer insurmountable: to meet a skills need of this scale in the UK, we must embrace and deploy the technology at our disposal.

A new approach

When millions need to upskill, and fast, online learning offers an effective solution. The majority of online learning formats fail to offer tailored, personal learning with high completion rates and a demonstrable impact. Traditional MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – with long course lengths, low effectiveness and an average completion rate of only one in three – have not delivered results for learners. Online learners deserve a better way.

At Emeritus, we’ve found that the Small Private Online Course (SPOC) model is the one that works best, boasting a completion rate of 90%. Marrying the personalised and supportive elements of the classroom with tech-powered learning means that learners access the training they need at the scale required for the upskilling challenge.

The two crucial issues for employers – affordability and access – are resolved when we harness the power of digital. The breadth of skills offered by SPOCs is significant too; Emeritus, for instance, trains learners in over 250 subjects as diverse as Coding, Data Science and Digital Transformation.

Education within reach

Cohort-based online learning isn’t bound by geography either – wherever they may be in the country, employees can access technical upskilling and professional training from the best universities in the world. For learners from Edinburgh to Cornwall, a Cambridge education is within reach.

Across the country, businesses are feeling the bite of the skills shortage, bracing themselves for the gap to widen further. Our research recently found that the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, eastern England and the West Midlands could all take at least 15 years to catch up with London’s qualification rates, while the North East would take more than 30 years to match London.

That is a truly staggering lag and one that is only remedied by supporting learners anywhere in the UK in receiving effective and accessible training. Highly technical skills have historically been gatekept by three-year-long undergraduate degrees and characterised by student debt. But now remote learning and working from home is here to stay, and businesses must take full advantage of technology to equip their employees with the skills they so sorely want and need.

The UK has an urgent need for retraining, and a technology-led solution, but the final piece of this puzzle is the collective will of businesses to take action. Investing in employee development through tech-powered learning will be paramount to ensuring the workforce of today is equipped to tackle the work of tomorrow.