Skills in the city: Why Londoners need more training opportunities

by Fiona Camenzuli People & Organisation Network Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7739 876723

This is the third of six articles in a series exploring the UK public’s feelings towards the future of work, following our recent Upskilling Hopes and Fears survey.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, recently said at a virtual event: “One of our key missions as we seek to recover from the pandemic will be ensuring that Londoners are able to access good work – something which will inevitably go hand-in-hand with the development of digital talent across our city.”

This is a challenging undertaking. Despite London’s reputation as a high-tech city, producing extremely successful tech companies such as Revolut and Monzo, many of its inhabitants still aren’t getting enough opportunities to develop their digital skills.

49% of Londoners lack access to technology

Our Upskilling Hopes and Fears survey of 2,001 UK workers (and 32,500 globally) reveals that almost half of Londoners do not have the technology access they need to develop their skills. This also appears to be affecting their perception of the future world of work: 35% of Londoners think their job will be made obsolete in the next five years. That’s more than three times as many as South West (9%) and Wales (10%). 

The digital skills gap has become more pronounced during the pandemic, as social distancing regulations have accelerated the pace of digitisation across many industries. While this was beneficial in many ways, allowing many workers greater flexibility than ever before, it also meant some felt left behind. A quarter of Londoners said they did not have adequate digital skills when the pandemic began, while one in five have had no way of learning in the last 12 months. 

Londoners are adaptable, self-motivated problem solvers

Fortunately, though, Londoners are ready to adapt to new technologies when given the right opportunities. Three quarters (73%) of London workers are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering the workplace. Many are already proactively doing so: 62% continually reskill to keep up with changing technologies. The most common upskilling methods are learning on the job (36%)  and learning via free online resources (for example: online videos, podcasts and e-learns) (36%).

Their existing skills also lend themselves well to learning about the digital world. When asked to choose the top three skills they have now from a list, Londoners tended to choose adaptability (75%), problem solving (70%) and self motivation (72%), while STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and digital skills ranked lower (47% and 61%, respectively). 

While their lack of confidence in technology is concerning, it’s encouraging to see such an abundance of “soft skills” in the capital. Anne Bamford OBE, Strategic Director of the Education and Skills for the City of London, emphasised the need for “fusion skills” - a combination of soft and technical skills - recently, at our Leadership Exchange event. 

“Digital skills are both a product of fusion skills and can accelerate fusion skills,” she said. “If you’re working well in a job using technical skills, you’ll also find you’re using a lot of fusion skills too. It’s like yin and yang.”

How can employers help distribute opportunities more fairly?

Some 69% of Londoners are ready to reskill or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future, and 73% said employers were responsible for helping them do so. But a quarter of Londoners report being offered no opportunities at all to reskill. 

Many employers - including PwC - already have programmes in place to upskill their workers. We held our first two-day Digital Academy in 2020, and since then more than half of our 22,000 UK workers have experienced hands-on training in data manipulation and visualisation tools. We are applying these new tech skills to work with our clients and to help solve their important problems.

Organisations need to start offering more training opportunities to their workers - not only to ensure they have the skills resource they need for the future, but also to remain competitive as an employer.

It’s time to step up

Developing digital skills - for our people and in society - is something our Chairman, Kevin Ellis, is passionate about. “London has the most diverse talent in the world,” he said recently, at the Evening Standard’s Recovery Board. “It’s why it stands out as a city to international investors.” 

If London is to continue to stand out, employers in all sectors need to continue to develop and nurture talent - in their organisations and the communities they serve. 

Tell us your upskilling story

We are keen to highlight the work different organisations are undertaking to upskill their people.  

This year, PwC’s Building Public Trust Awards will, for the first time, recognise organisations who are leading the way and clearly articulating why and how they are upskilling their people and communities. Nominate your organisation

by Fiona Camenzuli People & Organisation Network Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Email +44 (0)7739 876723