· 2 min read · Features

Skills and training challenges: Lessons from Carillion


While the full impact of Carillion’s collapse is unclear, it has thrown challenges around buildng a workforce fit for the future into sharp relief

A changing workforce

The fourth industrial revolution is likely to bring huge disruption to the workplace, at a time when developing and retaining skilled staff has never been more important.

The World Economic Forum’s recent Towards a Reskilling Revolution report predicted that without reskilling only 2% of today’s workers have an ‘optimal chance’ of a rewarding new role. But with proper investment in training 95% of workers in vulnerable roles could find quality work. People today are working beyond the retirement age of previous generations. The DWP has suggested that UK workers under 30 are unlikely to receive a state pension until they reach 70. These factors have led to the rise of the portfolio career.

Looking back to Carillion, while younger workers won’t struggle to demonstrate their skills and abilities to potential employers, what about older workers who made their first career moves in a world of paper CVs? They may never have had to look for work online and didn’t undergo professional development in an age of digital training records.

Invest in training

As Brexit takes shape we are likely to see an exodus of European workers. The construction, hospitality and catering industries are already feeling the pinch as their workers flock elsewhere. For employers left with widening gaps in their workforce, investing in homegrown talent is the obvious next step.

What’s more, British workers are currently offered less employer-provided training than workers in any other EU country except Poland, Greece and Romania. It’s time for British employers to step up.

The government has a role to play in helping UK employers understand the importance of training and developing existing staff from the ground up.

Embrace the apprenticeship levy

Despite an underwhelming uptake in the first few months, the apprenticeship levy will be vital in ensuring that businesses can develop the talent they need to flourish, and for giving workers the opportunity to reskill or upskill on the job. Yet there is a concerning lack of awareness among affected employers as to the levy’s existence, let alone how it benefits them.

The levy presents a valuable opportunity for employers to re-think the way they fund training and development for employees of all ages, at all stages of their careers.

The government has a responsibility to promote the levy and should consider extending its remit to allow funds to be used for careers advice, guidance and work placement activities. Or even think about a broader ‘skills levy’ encompassing the training that’s critical to futureproofing our workforce.

Think about tomorrow’s workforce today

Employers need to look beyond today’s skills requirements and think about what skills we will need in 10 years’ time. If we want to build a workforce that’s fit for the future we need to start now.

All of us, from the government down to SMEs, need to understand what capabilities will be needed in tomorrow’s workplace and ensure that paths into these roles are available and encouraged. Businesses need to spend time evaluating the jobs and roles that will be critical to their success over the next decade and nurturing the skills needed to fulfil them.

Having the right people in place is critical to building a sustainable workforce. Businesses need to look at attracting talent from groups that are traditionally under-represented in today’s workforce. In the UK only 49% of disabled people are in work, compared with 81% of all workers. And the number of over-65s in the British workforce is 4% lower than the G7 average of 15%.

Carillion won’t be the last industry giant to fall, but the fallout from the collapse has shone a light on some of the issues facing our workforces. The message is clear: we need to act now. By ensuring employers are giving skills and training the attention they need we can help people navigate the complexities of the employment market and futureproof the UK’s talent pipeline.

Chris Jones is CEO of the City & Guilds Group