Social mobility is high on the political agenda in the UK, and IER’s research on adult skills training, funded by the Social Mobility Commission, provided evidence on the patterns of skills training investment over time. It looked specifically at investment in adult skills by socio-economic background and other characteristics and the relationship between investment in adult skills and labour market outcomes for adults who have already entered the labour market.
A better understanding of investment in adult skills in the UK can help improve policy recommendations regarding social mobility outcomes, in light of the government agenda of this Parliament and longer-term changes to jobs and skills, as well as contribute to recommendations about measuring and monitoring data going forward.
The research found that there was evidence of ‘vicious’ and ‘virtuous’ circles of training, whereby those with low or no qualifications are much less likely to access education and training after leaving school compared to those with high qualifications. An individual’s background also has an impact. Workers whose parents came from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to benefit from adult training – which can impact on social mobility. Employees from more privileged backgrounds are more likely than other low-skilled workers to take advantage of in-work learning to rise up the ranks. The report also highlights that UK investment in training is low by international standards. This leaves big questions about how the government, employers, and society more broadly can ensure better prospects for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The report was launched in January 2019 and was covered in local and national press.