Building new skills may be among the most important reasons people stay in their jobs, but more than half of respondents to a new survey of upskilling priorities admit they're too busy to actually develop their skills – and a third don't have the budget to do so.

The survey results come from in Pluralsight’s newly released State of Upskilling Report 2022, an April survey of 760 technologists in the US, Australia, and seven other countries about their skills-development priorities.

The results highlight the paradox facing companies that need to provide training opportunities to win and keep staff, but are also apparently not giving them enough time to undertake that training.

Although the technology workers surveyed were generally self-motivated to learn – 91 per cent said they want to improve their tech skills to fulfil personal career goals and just 22 per cent said employers required it – fully 61 per cent of respondents said they were too busy to engage in meaningful learning, up significantly from 41 per cent last year.

In addition, fully a third said they still can’t find enough budget for the training they need.

That was up from 29 per cent last year, suggesting that a growing roster of post-pandemic budget priorities is compromising training budgets.

The report also noted that 52 per cent of workers that said they consider leaving their job at least once a month – and cite the lack of professional growth and learning opportunities as a key reason to leave.

Businesses need to double down on skills development, said Pluralsight vice president of workforce development Josephine Lanzarone.

She warned that an “ever-widening skills gap”, dwindling talent pipeline and intensifying competition for workers meant “it’s no longer possible to hire your way out of today’s talent crunch.”

“Retention is key,” she explained, “and our research shows that dedicating resources to upskilling and reskilling your current employees plays a critical role in keeping talent engaged.”

“Neglect to do so, and your employees will look for someone else who will.”

Promoting self-driven learning

Many employers are addressing this issue by providing training in non-traditional ways, with just 37 per cent of respondents saying they still use in-person, instructor-led training.

Fully 61 per cent, by contrast, said they tapped online skill development platforms and 43 per cent use virtual instructor-led training – both of which allow learners to develop their skills at their own speed, in their own time.

Virtual learning is about more than just convenience, however.

Respondents said they are generally looking for a “low-stakes environment to learn a new skill”, the report notes, with learners wanting to “feel psychologically safe” as they learn in a sandbox/lab type environment “without fear of consequences”.

Australia lagging behind

Many Australian employers are still failing to meet employees’ expectations or global benchmarks, with online learning company Coursera recently ranking Australia as the world’s 33rd most well-developed training market.

Australia’s business, technology, and data science skills were ranked at just 58 per cent, 63 per cent, and 71 per cent of the optimum in the company’s new Coursera Global Skills Report 2022, which lauded the technology skills development work of regional neighbours like Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, and Kazakhstan.

Australia was strongest in data science areas like data analytics and data visualisation, while skills in technology areas like web development, cloud computing, and databases were also strong.

“The country’s workforce leaders should continue to prioritise these domains,” the analysis recommends, lauding the government’s digital skills investment but warning that Australia’s skills still lag global benchmarks in areas like strategy and operations (with a score of just 19 per cent), mobile development (31 per cent), security engineering (32 per cent), and software engineering (38 per cent).

Noting that Australia’s economy “has low levels of diversification and complexity”, the analysis warned, “without investing in skills development, Australia risks leaving itself open to global instability… Skills training can make Australia a talent destination, not just a source.”