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Never too late to learn


Never too late to learn

Why Are We Doing This Image

With many people living and working for longer, the need for high quality opportunities to retrain and upskill at all ages has never been more important. Our previous research has shown that 18 million adults in the UK are not adequately preparing financially for later life, and 10 million are not confident in their ability to secure work, with many worried that a lack of skills will stop them from earning what they need to save for retirement. Other research shows that approximately 30.5 million UK workers lack the full suite of skills they will require in 2030 to perform their jobs well.

Why are we doing this?

We have produced this report, based on original polling and focus groups independently commissioned from Public First*, because:

  1. The UK lags behind many other OECD (The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries in its level of uptake and investment in adult learning
  2. We feel the education and training system lacks consideration for those in mid-career
  3. Providing opportunities for upskilling will support economic growth

We also look at practical recommendations for key policy initiatives such as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement scheme due to launch in 2025.


What is the Lifelong Loan Entitlement?

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, from 2025, the lifelong loan entitlement will provide individuals with the equivalent of 4 years of post-18 education to use over their lifetime. This could be provided in colleges or universities and it aims to put Further Education and training at Levels 4 and 5 on an equal footing with the familiar route to an undergraduate degree.

The government propose that a more flexible, modular system would allow individuals to step in and out of the system when it is right for them.

Individuals and businesses are broadly positive about lifelong learning, upskilling and retraining. However, these views are not matched by action. 

Person Metalworking

What have we realised?

Many people face significant barriers to taking part in lifelong learning, such as paying for training, aversion to taking on debt, a lack of confidence or familiarity with the education system, and a need to balance work, caring responsibilities or health needs. For many the idea of training, or moving careers feels like too much of a ‘gamble’.

Employers too have stereotypes that mid-life and older workers don’t want or need training, and they face a lack of engagement with the education and training system.

This original research shows that: 

  • The majority of people thought that the government needs to do more to help people build on their skills throughout their career (70%) and retrain and upskill throughout their lives (67%) 
  • Over half of businesses (53%) thought that the government is not doing enough to support on-the-job training. 
  • 69% of businesses hadn’t offered their employees any formal training over the last 12 months 
  • Three in five people (59%) agreed that the government should only expect people to be willing to retrain if they are guaranteed employment afterwards.

What are we recommending?

Policy positioning

Lifelong learning, upskilling and reskilling should be centred as a vital tool for businesses to grow and succeed.

Strengthening the role of employers

The government to fully involve employers early in the design, development and implementation of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

Framing and communications

Any new initiative to engage more people in learning needs to be branded and framed with the target age group in mind.

Design and delivery

Lifelong learning requires a flexible delivery model which works around an individual's caring responsibilities and other needs - modular learning is key to this and should be implemented widely.

The report also advocates for the role of access to high quality independent careers advice, and financial incentives - including co-funding options for employers, access to paid time to train, and clear and accurate information for both individuals and employers to make informed decisions about engaging in lifelong learning.

Watch our event

Joining Patrick Thomson, Head of Research Analysis and Policy at Phoenix Insights to discuss our report and explore what needs to change to enable more people to re-skill and retrain in midlife were:

  • Bethan Staton, Financial Times Public Policy Reporter
  • Jennifer Coupland, CEO at the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education
  • David Hughes, CEO at the Association of Colleges

* The polling and focus groups included both individuals and businesses, exploring perceptions of lifelong learning and what steps can be taken to unlock potential to upskills at all ages.