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Lack of soft skills education traps disadvantaged – Lost £280K wage premium

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Inequality of learning opportunities at school stifling UK wages and life chances

-New YouGov / Skills Builder Partnership study shows disadvantaged denied essential skills education at school and work.

-Abilities like communication and leadership worth annual pay boost of up to £5,900.

-England lags behind UK nations with formalised skills frameworks.

-Boosting grades not enough to level up.

A lack of essential skills education at school is trapping disadvantaged people from across the UK in low paid and low skilled work for life, according to a new report.

YouGov and the social enterprise, Skills Builder Partnership, have exposed a UK skills trap, originating at school, that is preventing millions from accessing a lifetime wage premium of up to £280,000.

Research with over 2,000 working age people, mapping earnings and demographics to a universal framework of essential and highly transferable skills, shows for the first time, how having so-called ‘soft skills’ directly impacts earnings, employment and wellbeing.

81% of the UK who had opportunities to build essential skills at school have above average abilities such as problem solving and communicating. This equates to an annual salary boost of up to £5,900 or just under £500 a month – similar to a graduate premium. Their risk of being not in employment or education is also reduced by more than half.

This experience contrasts with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have fewer opportunities to build these skills at school. They have fewer chances and desire to upskill at work and ultimately have lower skills, life satisfaction and wages:

·Development & Drive – More than half of people who had skills building opportunities at school develop them further at work, compared to less than a third who did not have opportunities early in life. Nearly all workers who had opportunities at school want more, compared to two thirds who did not and opt out of further training – putting them on a lower career trajectory. Skills are also higher for those who attended a selective / independent school.

·Location –England’s essential skills levels lag behind other parts of the UK whose education systems formalise it in schools. People in the north and east of England have the UK’s lowest skills and fewest opportunities to upskill.

·Parents – You are twice as likely to build 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 had a parent that went to university.

·Narrowing options –Chances to catch up on essential skills dwindle as you get older – only 14% of all workers have ever been given a chance by their employer to develop them through structured learning – despite 83% wanting such opportunities. White collar’ workers are more than twice as likely to have access to skills building opportunities than lower skilled workers.

The data illustrates that educators’ and employers’ current focus on attainment and technical skills is not enough to level up the UK and boost productivity. We are calling on employers, educators and policy makers to back proven interventions and support meaningful essential skills building opportunities to level the playing field.

Creativity is the UK’s weakest essential skill, with below average scores that decline with age – worrying for the ‘Fifth Industrial Revolution’. The public score highest on listening and teamwork.

The UK places a high value on essential skills education with 84% wanting it taught in schools and 89% believing they are important for recruitment and career progression.

These abilities are currently worth at least £88bn to the economy and are predicted to hit £127bn by 2025, according to the Development Economics research group.

The Skills Builder Partnership of 800 employers, educators and impact organisations has helped 1.5 million people in the UK forge essential skills in the last year through a universal language and shared approach. It is used by the likes of BP, IBM, KPMG and CIPD.

Tom Ravenscroft, CEO & Founder, Skills Builder Partnership said: “The UK tends to take essential skills like listening and problem solving for granted – and it’s clearly costing us. We have identified worrying indicators of divergence in life chances due to a lack of skills building opportunities across the nation.

There is nothing ‘soft’ about skills that are essential to life. This study proves, in terms of pounds, progression and personal wellbeing, the rewards of early opportunities and lifelong learning.

Thanks to this research applying a rigorous framework, we can now measure, on a national level, essential skill levels as robustly as technical skills or grading in education.”

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