From education to employment

Professionals forced to sacrifice their future potential due to the high cost of living

woman stressed on laptop

While there might have been tentative enthusiasm about the return to ‘normality’, following the turbulence of the last few years, the cost-of-living crisis, which still looms large for so many, continues to dampen people’s outlooks.

In this context, and in today’s increasingly fast-paced, competitive world, it is perhaps understandable that people are looking for ways to gain professional advantages, with many attempting to bolster their skills, knowledge, and qualifications to stay ahead in their careers. Unfortunately, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges faced by professionals who are forced to sacrifice their future potential due to financial constraints.

Despite the numerous advantages that training and development can offer, the ongoing cost of living crisis has created a sizeable barrier to entry, preventing marketers aspiring to drive their careers from being able to engage in professional development activities.

Two-thirds of respondents in a recent survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing stated they are not engaging in any training to further their careers at all. As living expenses related to housing, transport, healthcare, and other daily necessities continue to rise, we all need to find time to invest in personal professional growth, to unlock opportunities not only ourselves, but for the wider economy.

Training courses offer specialised knowledge, skills and certifications, specifically tailored for professionals. Those who have undergone such training gain a significant advantage over those who haven’t. The Association for Talent Development (ATD) found that companies offering a formalised training programme increase their profitability per employee by 218% as their workforce becomes more efficient. When individuals are unable to invest in themselves and their own growth, they risk falling behind their colleagues in an ever-evolving job market.

Using the marketing industry as an example of a sector which is ever-evolving, take, for instance, the introduction of Generative AI. AI is moving at an incredible pace, within a matter of months, with businesses and marketers alike scrambling to equip themselves with the skills needed to be able to best take advantage of this technology. Many have raised questions around regulation, standards, ethical considerations and job security.

To succeed in this landscape, it is beneficial for marketers to keep ahead of the curve and understand what AI means to organisations and our customers. To do this, employers need to encourage and nurture a forward-thinking and influential workforce. However, as professionals across the UK struggle with rising the cost of living, this is limiting their ability to compete and grow in an industry requiring the expertise and qualifications that such training can provide. As marketers, we must develop the relevant skills, and approach new technologies with integrity and professionalism. 

Our research showed that 72% of UK adults feel that the Government should be doing much more to provide viable alternatives to higher education as the sole route to progression. Providing young people and those seeking to grow their careers the opportunity to earn whilst they learn will be a key way to combat the significant skills gap in the sector, particularly during a turbulent economic cycle.

Reforming the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy to allow employers to have more accessibility and flexibility in utilising funds may be one way to achieve this. Of those delaying training 40% have put it off indefinitely, and 60% put off to a later date. Helping employers to reallocate funding to the wider workforce could help overcome the natural human tendency to delay in the face of uncertainty. Through fostering an environment that encourages professional growth and development and empowers marketers with the opportunities to learn them, we can bridge the skills gap, nurture talent and empower individuals to thrive in their professional careers.

The high cost of living poses a formidable barrier to professionals striving for growth and advancement in their careers. Reform of the apprenticeship levy can pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive environment that facilitates professional development and enhances prospects in the marketing field. I strongly believe that investing in professional development is essential for individuals and the overall prosperity of industries. By implementing collaborative solutions that alleviate financial constraints, we can empower professionals to make the decisions that they need to flourish in their careers, which ultimately benefits business and wider society.

By Maggie Jones, Director of Qualifications and Partnerships at the Chartered Institute of Marketing

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