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Support for CBI report urging kickstart to lifelong learning

The Open University (OU) has given its backing to a new hard-hitting report issued on Tuesday 29th October by the CBI on the need to revitalise lifelong learning.

The report An upskill battle: the importance of lifelong learning in a modern economy” highlights the importance and challenges firms face in order to upskill and retrain their employees. It argues for adult education to be at the top of the political agenda and recommends closer collaboration between business and Government.

Drawing on “passporting skills”

The OU’s popular free learning platform OpenLearn is cited within the report as an example of how employees can draw on  “passporting” skills and qualifications to study alongside their work. The report calls for improved transparency on Apprenticeship Levy money and using apprenticeships. It also echoes key findings of The Open University Business Barometer 2019 concerning improving the clarity for employees of internal development routes and opening up all new vacancies to internal applicants as a default.

In the OU’s Business Barometer report 2019 – which surveyed 950 senior business leaders across the UK – it found that three in five employers (61%) think that they will have to focus on developing talent from within their organisation if they want to guarantee access to the skills they need in order to be productive and efficient. While seven in 10 (71%) employers agree that developing the skills of the existing workforce is a more sustainable approach, it is crucial that any training helps to support business objectives, while offering as much as value as possible.

David Willett, Corporate Director at The Open University, said:

The Open University endorses this report. We welcome the economic and social imperative it makes for cross UK government investment in a lifelong learning strategy to support upskilling and reskilling.  Flexible learning delivered through flexible means must be at the heart of this initiative to give employers and employees what they want, and the productivity boost that the country needs.”

The Open University believes economic success in the coming years depends on embedding a lifelong learning culture which rests on three co-equal pillars:

  • flexible lifetime learning opportunities
  • apprenticeships
  • full-time study (whether FE and/or HE). 

We support the recognition of lifelong learning, but this needs to be based on funding and policies that are affordable, flexible; and delivered in partnership. 

OpenLearn’s range of courses

The OU’s OpenLearn platform launched in 2006 and in that time has seen visitor numbers reach 67 million. It’s free learning offer includes a range of Badged Open Courses on a number of subjects and professional competencies essential for a modern workplace, which are used by many as a pre-cursor to more formal study or for continuous learning

The OU’s OpenLearn platform attracted 8.9 million visitors in the year 2018/19­– a 15% increase on the previous year­. Within that total, 5.6 million users viewed one of the 900+ free courses available on the site. The range of Badged Open Courses (known as BOCs, where a digital badge is awarded on completion of the online course) currently stands at 54, with 15,000 digital badges having been awarded so far. These include Effective Communication in the Workplace

The courses are used by many as a pre-cursor to more formal OU study. Amanda wanted to upgrade her academic qualifications after living abroad and began with a taster course on OpenLearn, while others, including Sarah, a clinical programme director, uses the courses as a way to keep up learning following her initial OU Open degree.

About Author

Christine is a manager in the Media Relations team within the Marcomms Unit at the OU. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She is doing an MA in Philosophy with The Open University; she focuses on FASS stories and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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