UCL Grand Challenges


Routes to Opportunity - Addresssing the non-university skills gap in England

7 November 2017

Routes to Opportunity word cloud

This Grand Challenge of Justice and Equality report investigates the mid-level non-university skills gap many employers face and the routes to undertaking technical and vocational education for the over 25s in England.

The report will be launched at a breakfast event taking place on Wednesday 6 December 2017 from 08.30-10.00 in Jeffrey Hall in UCL’s Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL

At the event, attendees will hear from:

  • Sir Vince Cable MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and long standing advocate of adult education
  • Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL’s Institute of Education
  • Aly Colman, the report author

Register to attend "Routes to Opportunity" report launch

The report is based on a literature review undertaken by Aly Colman, UCL Institute of Education Doctoral candidate and Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Brighton.

Key findings:

  • The mid-level skills gap is well documented and causing problems for employers.
  • Upskilling or retraining for established workers over 25 in England can be difficult for those not supported by their employer or able to self-fund.
  • Measures previously identified to make upskilling and retraining easier for established workers, have suffered from insufficient funds, scant implementation and a lack of follow-through.
  • Low paid workers in unskilled jobs, who would benefit most from re-training/upskilling are often unable to do so because of insufficient opportunities and funding.
  • The welfare system does not support established workers to upskill or retrain.
  • Many potential learners are unaware of support that does exist for established workers to upskill or retrain.
  • The Brexit vote is already discouraging EU workers in medium skilled occupations from staying in the UK or moving here. Should hiring EU workers with mid-level skills become more difficult in future, this could exacerbate the problems currently faced.