Retraining help needed for one in four people interested in switching careers to help tackle 900,000 workforce gap

There are around 900,000 fewer potential workers in the UK than if pre-pandemic trends had continued, finds a new report by Learning and Work Institute. This is the result of slower growth in the population and a rise in the numbers out of work but not looking for a job.


23 10 2021


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The report comes as many employers report difficulties hiring new workers as vacancies hit a record 1.1 million. These difficulties are particularly pronounced for roles such as HGV drivers and sectors like hospitality and health and social care. Yet one in four workers say they are interested in changing career, rising to 42% of hospitality workers.

This demonstrates a mismatch in the labour market: a worker and skills crunch. To tackle this we need to extend support to find work for those traditionally underrepresented in the workforce, such as disabled people and parents. The Government’s Plan for Jobs has helped to protect millions of jobs, but these underrepresented groups are less likely to be eligible for support and so risk missing out.

Fast forward?

Where next for the labour market

The report argues that in his forthcoming Spending Review the Chancellor should:

  • extend back-to-work help to parents and disabled people, rather than cutting support to make savings as a result of lower-than-expected unemployment
  • support retraining through better access to skills courses
  • restore the £20 uplift to Universal Credit to help households hit by the rising cost of living and improve sick pay for those needing to self-isolate.

Employers can also widen their potential talent pool by offering more flexible and remote working. New polling for the report shows the impact of remote and flexible working during the pandemic. Workers reported work was more intensive (40%) and longer hours (35%) while 44% felt less connection to their co-workers. Both employers (40%) and employees (34%) felt more productive and 30% of employer saw a rise in creativity and innovation.

Despite these pros and cons, most (58%) employers expect a step change in remote working after the pandemic and 44% of employees want greater remote working. This will mean less demand for office space, with 27% of employers planning to cut their footprint. But the death of the office is exaggerated with many not planning to reduce office accommodation and 9% saying they plan to expand.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute:
We need to better match the 3.2 million people out of work but wanting a job with employers struggling to recruit. That means helping more people out of work to look for jobs, including disabled people and those with caring responsibilities, alongside investment in retraining and harnessing the power of flexible working. The Chancellor needs to meet this challenge in his Spending Review.