A lack of access to training for UK workers has created a skills ceiling which costs lower paid staff £11,926 a year and deprives businesses of a pool of untapped talent from within their business, according to research released Wednesday May 8th, from AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians).

Analysis of the latest ONS labour statistics has found that lower skilled office workers are being trapped under the skills ceiling due to a mismatch between their skills and employer needs. For businesses, the skills ceiling is limiting productivity, stifling ability to promote and retain staff and blocking the path to a happy and driven workforce. For individuals, the skills ceiling is capping earning potential, blocking promotion prospects and damaging self-worth in the workplace.

The skills ceiling concept is backed by a wealth of evidence pointing to a structural shortcoming in the UK economy:

  • The Social Mobility Commission's 2019 Adult Skills Report found the majority of upskilling opportunities were being prioritised for workers in highly paid or highly skilled roles, locking out those in lower paid or lower skilled occupations.
  • Employers' investment in skills has dropped by 25% in the past decade with just one in 10 workers currently studying for a nationally recognised qualification.
  • More expensive forms of training such as MBAs are becoming less popular for employees and employers.
  • The UK is spending just two thirds of the European average on adult training, and investment is in decline.

To raise awareness of the problem, AAT is highlighting the skills ceiling and urging businesses to invest in workforce-wide upskilling by offering staff training opportunities that can provide immediate benefits to employers and employees.

Recent surveys have also shown that staff want to feel their employers are invested in their growth and personal development. Given nearly 1 in 7 people are now suffering mental health problems as a result of their work, businesses can increase the happiness and wellbeing of their staff by helping them to break the skills ceiling and gain enhanced job security. Businesses that invest in the skills of their employees are also more likely to retain them and attract high quality staff from elsewhere.

Commenting, AAT Chief Executive, Mark Farrar said: "The skills ceiling is the result of systemic under investment by UK businesses in their staff. Every single piece of statistical or anecdotal evidence tells us that businesses will stand to benefit significantly if they invest in their staff.

"A major issue is that those receiving the majority of upskilling opportunities are already highly skilled and highly paid, when while those who need it most are left behind. This is wrong and bad for business.

"This vicious cycle needs to be broken, and it is in the power of businesses up and down the country to invest in, grow and retain a productive and happy workforce."

AAT is encouraging employers to continually develop their staff to ensure that their knowledge and skills remain current and therefore more valuable to businesses. For more on how AAT can help train both finance and non-finance staff, visit AAT Train Your Staff.