The 3 Challenges Facing UK Learners


In light of the turbulence caused by COVID-19, UK learners will face 3 key challenges moving forward into 2022: the effects of the pandemic, shifting market demands, and a major skills gap. 


While research is still uncovering the full effects of the pandemic, there are already some clear predictions of the obstacles ahead for learners and possible solutions for relevant stake-holders.   


757,000 Young people did not work or study in 2020 According to the Office of National Statistics, a high of 757,000 young people in the UK from ages 16-24 were not in education, training, or employment (2)

Young people have been hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic.  Education and training have been disrupted, employment opportunities have been shattered, and significant barriers have been created for those trying to enter the workforce or move between jobs. 


Learners have been forced to adjust accordingly, and many are falling behind.  Teachers and students alike were largely unprepared for the overnight switch to online learning.  Issues like lack of IT access at home and below par digital skills have only exacerbated the learning gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.  The long-term consequences of this could be devastating for a whole generation.             


Meanwhile, highly-qualified graduates left without work are shifting gears when it comes to approaching career choice.  In a bleak market,  ‘essential’ jobs shine with security, and previously underlooked professions and are suddenly in the limelight.  This new focus points to a change in narrative around the qualifications such roles require and deserve.  Forging ahead, learning at work is predicted to overshadow learning in the classroom as apprenticeships are discussed to be a key tool in addressing inequality in the UK workforce post-pandemic. 


But there remains another obstacle for today’s graduates: overall lack of work experience.  Despite being the most academically-qualified generation yet, school- leavers today are severely lacking in other important qualities that employers desire, like soft skills that can be obtained through basic work experience.  In the UK, Saturday jobs are dying as young people look online to earn easy money.  This skills gap pattern only heightens the difficult transition from education to work, creating growing concerns for the future of the market and workforce. 



757,000 Young people did not work or study in 2020 According to the Office of National Statistics, a high of 757,000 young people in the UK from ages 16-24 were not in education, training, or employment (4)



This unique combination of current challenges presents a clear opportunity for providers to address the needs of today’s learners who are looking to get back on track post-pandemic.  Young people whose lives have been put on hold are eager to pursue their academic and professional aspirations; however, they face extreme competition for opportunities once the economy begins to open up more.  Ambitious individuals who are actively seeking ways to boost their chances to find work may use this time to sharpen their skills or gain new ones through online resources.  Also, adult education can be a solid way for the current idle workforce to improve employment chances, especially in the wake of an extreme upskilling need of UK’s basic workers.  


During these uncertain times, it is clear that long-term, systematic change is underway.  These foreseen obstacles for learners are likely just the tip of the iceberg of the reality they’ll face in the recovery of Covid-19. 


In our Challenges for Learners report, we dig into all of these issues and highlight crucial statistics and trends that will help training providers shape their strategy for the coming year and the future beyond the pandemic.

Want to find out more? Download the full report

3 challenges facing uk learners (1)


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Cassandra Kenning

Cassandra Kenning is a writer and content editor for Educations Media Group. Originally from the U.S., she has been living in Sweden since 2017 and has a master’s degree in International and Comparative Education from Stockholm University. Cassandra uses her passion for education to promote learning and development in the workplace.