Can training help workers change their stripes? Retraining and career change in the UK

Publication type



Publication date

August 15, 2020


The coronavirus crisis has already brought significant disruption to the UK labour market, particularly in sectors that offer in-person services like hospitality, entertainment and retail. There are fears that as the Government’s temporary support measures wind down, many more adults could soon be out of work.

The Government will need to consider adult education and retraining policies that will help some workless adults move back into work and help other adults move to different sectors. This report assesses the UK’s recent track record in both training to help recently out-of-work adults re-enter a job and training to help them change the industry that they work in.

Using figures from Understanding Society over 2012-18, it finds a strong association between training and returning to work, particularly among non-graduates. However, the association between most forms of training and changing industry (including both changing industry and receiving a pay boost) is much smaller. Here, it appears that only full-time education has a substantial relationship with the likelihood of a 25-59-year-old making a career change.

The report argues that policy makers should look to education and training as one way to tackle the high levels of unemployment that we are likely to be facing. Where the goal is to help adults change sector, policy makers face a larger challenge. In the short-to-medium term, they should consider policies that would help adults change career by adopting more sector-focused job creation initiatives that have training built into them. For instance, investing in social care and ‘green jobs’ like home retrofitting provides a way to boost sectoral reallocation and tackle unemployment during this crisis.




Uses Understanding Society data (not Understanding Society - COVID-19 Study, 2020)

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