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Two-fifths of UK workforce 'not in skilled employment'

'NISKE' (not in skilled employment) workers may be facing challenges that prevent them from progressing

Two-fifths of the UK workforce identify themselves as ‘not in skilled employment’ (NISKE), according to research from the Open University.

The survey of 4,000 UK adults found that 42% of people see themselves as NISKE, which is roughly 13 million people across the country. Eighty-four per cent of this group reported that they were also in the same low- and semi-skilled positions in 2012, suggesting they face challenges when it comes to developing better skills and moving up the career ladder.

A third (32%) of NISKE workers said that they do not have access to workplace training, compared to around one in five (22%) of those in skilled roles. Similarly, half (50%) of those not in skilled employment had no career progression opportunities at their place of employment, while among skilled workers this figure dropped to one in four (27%).

However, when it came to gaining new skills the study found apathy to be a significant factor, with NISKEs notably less likely than their better-skilled peers to want to build up their skillsets (43% versus 56%). Additionally, a lack of awareness of the training options available was found to be affecting 10%.

David Willett, a director at The Open University, said employers need to create a workforce capable of meeting new challenges. “The UK is in the grips of a skills crisis, lagging behind its international competitors, and this is blighting individual and business potential,” he said. “To compete on a global level the UK needs to shift to a higher skills economy, but that means the livelihoods of many NISKE workers are under threat – unless we invest in training staff and unlock greater potential.

“Employers urgently need to invest in developing an agile workforce that can embrace change and meet new challenges. Adult education and training at all ages and levels has a role to play in raising productivity, narrowing the skills gap, as well as enabling greater social mobility and enhancing progression into well-paid jobs.”