From education to employment

Cost of living, AI and Skills Based Hiring: The Three Factors Set to Impact the Education Sector in 2024

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  • Close to half (46%) of staff working across education are more inclined to move jobs in the year ahead due to the rising cost of living
  • Over half (55%) of education professionals say their employer is not helping to prepare them for the use of AI in the workplace
  • Most (81%) education employers say they are likely to hire a professional who does not possess all the required skills, to upskill them

In the last 12 months, the world of work has witnessed several shifts, prompting discussions around the impact of the rising cost of living on salaries, the risks and rewards of embracing AI and the shifting importance of qualifications in an era of skills-based hiring.

According to new research released by a leading specialist in workforce solutions and recruitment, Hays, although more than half (58%) of education professionals are satisfied with their salary, 4 in 10 (42%) are currently dissatisfied with their pay level.

Education professionals are tempted to move jobs due to the cost of living

The research, based on a survey of nearly 15,000 professionals and employers across the UK including over 1,940 respondents within the education sector, reveals that, despite the challenging economic climate, three-quarters (75%) of education employers haven’t received a cost-of-living pay increase in the last 12 months.

The economy could prompt education professionals to change jobs in the year ahead, as nearly half (46%) say they are more inclined to make a move as a result of the cost of living. Well over half (58%) of those professionals who are more likely to move say it’s because their current salary fails to cover their living expenses.

Whilst over a third (37%) of education professionals say the current cost of living is not affecting their decision to move jobs, 17% are, in fact, less inclined to change roles as a result of the economic climate. Of these professionals, 46% are worried about leaving a secure position and a quarter (25%) are concerned about job security in a new position.

A sense of purpose is vital for attracting and retaining talent

Almost all (97%) education employers say it’s important to their organisation to have a strong purpose and to regularly communicate this purpose. The majority (94%) of education employers also believe their organisation’s purpose is important to attract staff, followed by an engaging and supportive team culture (78%).

When considering a new role, an organisation’s purpose is important to 92% of education professionals. According to the research, a quarter (25%) of education professionals would be willing to accept less pay for a better work-life balance and a job with more purpose.

Paul Matthias, National Director at Hays specialising in Education, comments:

“With pay an even greater priority for professionals today as a result of the rising cost of living, more professionals working across the education sector are looking to move jobs for a better salary.

However, whilst pay is important, education employers must demonstrate their organisation’s strong sense of purpose, and positive team culture, to compete for the top talent, as this is a crucial consideration for education professionals who value job fulfilment and feeling as though they are making a positive difference.”

Education professionals missing out on AI upskilling

As AI is still a fairly new phenomenon in the workplace, only 15% of education professionals have used AI tools in their current role, slightly lower than the number of professionals overall who have used AI in their position – only one in five (20%).

Attitudes towards AI across the education sector are relatively mixed; whilst only 8% of professionals think AI tools will harm their jobs, 21% are confident AI will positively affect their role. More than a third (37%) of education professionals are unsure how AI might impact their role and a third (33%) of staff working within education believe AI won’t affect their role at all.

Close to half (45%) of education professionals believe they have some or all of the right tools to utilise AI tools and technologies. However, over a quarter (28%) say they don’t have the right skills to make the best use of AI, leaving 27% who are unsure about their AI skillset. More than half (55%) of education professionals say their employer is not helping to prepare them for the use of AI in the workplace.

Paul Matthias comments further:

“It’s clear from our research that the education sector is yet to get to grips with AI tools and technology, due to an overarching sense of uncertainty when it comes to how AI could impact jobs and the lack of preparation from employers to support staff utilise AI.

Education organisations must formulate an AI strategy, to demonstrate their understanding of the pros and cons of AI and to communicate how they will implement these new technologies. Employers also ought to ensure their staff are comfortable, adequately trained and upskilled and have a shared understanding of the positive role AI could play across the sector, rather than seeing it as a threat.”

Schools increasingly hiring for skills and potential

As it stands, just under a third (31%) of education employers say it’s very important for a job applicant to have a degree and that they wouldn’t consider a candidate without one. Almost half (45%) of those in charge of hiring education professionals believe a degree is quite important but not essential.

With the uptake of skills-based hiring, nearly a quarter (24%) of education employers say a degree is not important when assessing a job applicant.

Hiring for potential is another approach employers are taking today; most (81%) education employers say they are likely to hire a professional who does not possess all the required skills, to upskill them. Moreover, almost three-quarters (71%) of employers believe an employee’s willingness to learn is more important than their existing skillset.

Paul Matthias comments:

We’re certainly witnessing a shift in hiring practices, from a focus on education and experience to an emphasis on skills and potential, particularly in support roles, which is an effective way to attract a diverse range of staff from all different backgrounds. Professionals who have the right attitude, motivation to learn, personal skillset and potential will go far.

Degrees are by no means becoming invaluable, but it’s promising to see the popularity of this hiring technique that helps to ensure education professionals are supported by their employers to grow and develop on the job. Attractive career development plans are also a great way to retain talent in the long run, so schools move from being places of talent consumption to facilitating talent creation.”

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