Last week saw the launch of the third annual The Open University Business Barometer. This year’s report shows that employers are spending £4.4 billion a year to recruit workers with the skills they need – down from £6.3 billion in 2018.

This falling cost doesn’t reflect a closing skills gap, but a potential shift in gear by many employers, with more than half looking to adopt a ‘grow your own’ approach to securing talent. Indeed, ‘up-skilling’ is the watchword for business in 2019, as they increase the amount they invest in education and training.

Turning to training

The UK Government, which put skills at the heart of its Industrial Strategy, strongly supports this move towards training. At the centre of this has been a commitment to apprenticeships, with discussions around how to promote work-based training and construct a culture of lifelong learning, where employees can develop their skills and retrain throughout their careers, with similar initiatives in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Encouragingly our barometer shows that this may be paying off, as organisations have started to change their approach to addressing the skills shortage. More than half (53%) have increased their training and development budget in the past year – by an average of 10 per cent, and more than a third of organisations in the UK are now employing apprentices, which shows a fresh commitment to increasing skills within the current workforce.

Building a sustainable strategy

To build a sustainable talent pipeline, training and education must deliver results for the employers it serves; employees at all levels must be able to apply their knowledge to solve problems, making their organisations more agile and able to manage change. Particularly with the rapid pace of technological development meaning that employees must continually adapt to the digital developments on the horizon.

At the same time, with productivity already affected, training must complement organisations’ day-to-day operations. With new technology-enabled learning, employees can learn how, when and where they like, which means that education can fit around existing work and personal commitments.

At The Open University, we’ve applied our 50 years’ experience of providing innovative and flexible learning to our higher and degree apprenticeships. Not only can employers gain the higher-level skills they require to become more agile and adaptable, the work-based element also means that employees can apply their knowledge to their organisation and deliver real benefits right from the start.

Organisations must focus their investment on a long-term training strategy that delivers quality and flexibility, more than ever before. Our latest barometer has shown that skills do not have to be bought, they can be built, and by investing in the current workforce, organisations will have all the skills they require to meet the challenges and changes they will face in the years to come.

To find out more, or download the full report, visit The Open University’s website.