Upskilling and training is key to retaining skills

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The skills shortage is costing UK businesses £6.3 billion annually, with almost a quarter of those polled by the Open University conceding that recruiting the right talent remains the single biggest challenge they will face over the next five years.

Ahead of the launch of The Open University’s 6th Business Barometer in June, Chris Hogan, the OU’s Director of Sector Business Development, was speaking to business people from across Milton Keynes at the last MKBLP members breakfast, which was held within Alpha at Oscars.

Outlining the results of the last OU Business Barometer, which is based on a survey of 1,500 employers across different UK sectors, Chris revealed that one of the key challenges businesses are facing is retaining the right people.

When businesses don’t invest in training and developing the skills of their workforce, everybody loses. It means lower productivity and fewer opportunities to progress and climb the ladder. It means the ‘Great Resignation’ witnessed over recent months continuing, and ‘levelling up’ stalling.

“Employers are really feeling the pinch when they lose highly skilled people.”

Consequently, one of the trends the OU is witnessing is employers recruiting people based on their culture and values rather than skill set and moulding them through training. “It’s a different approach, a ‘grow your own’ concept. Employers are finding people who are a good fit and building the skills to suit the needs of the business. It’s a long term approach but it leads to greater retention.”

Making provisions for long term skills development and learning opportunities as a benefit of employment is another trend which the OU is seeing.

An example of this is Uber’s collaboration with The Open University. Faced with low employee retention, the partnership provides eligible drivers, or a nominated member of their family, the opportunity to study with the OU and tuition fees are funded by Uber.

More than 1,400 learners have enrolled on the programme since its launch in January 2020, many from under-represented groups who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to study and improve their skill-set.

“Employee satisfaction and retention has improved at Uber,” Chris comments, “and this approach can be adapted to suit any business, regardless of size. Another trend we are witnessing is how businesses are going a step further and supporting their customers. Our work with Legal & General, which saw them launch its Midlife MOT for customers, a free educational course in partnership is testament to this.”

Milton Keynes certainly has great foundations but, as it charts its course as a new city, employers need to ensure that their employees and the wider public are skilled and retained to help businesses of today and tomorrow prosper. By supporting the growth of skills and capitalising on the many offerings from our educational establishments we can realise the full potential of Milton Keynes.

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