Meeting the skills challenges for the future

A major intervention on the future of adult learning has been detailed in a new policy report released today.

The report, Equipped For The Future, features an introduction from former Secretary of State for Education and Employment David Blunkett as well as contributions from the Deputy General Secretary of The TUC Paul Nowak, Chief Executive of Business in the Community Amanda Mackenzie OBE and shadow education minister Lord Watson.

Bringing together key experts, Equipped For The Future responds to the seismic shifts taking place in the adult skills environment of Britain.

Employers were already facing the prospect of skills shortages before the pandemic. An estimated seven million extra workers are set to have insufficient skills for their jobs by 2030, with the largest problem being a lack of basic digital skills.

The pandemic has further exacerbated the skills crisis. Education and training opportunities have interrupted, creating long-term implications for the post-pandemic recovery and the future skills environment of the U.K.

Kate Dearden, Head of Research, Policy and External Relations at Community, says:

“A lack of adult learning provision is crippling this country. As is mentioned again and again in this report, spending on skills has fallen dramatically since 2010.

The recent levelling up White Paper acknowledged the pivotal role of skills and education in reducing inequalities across the U.K. yet provided no funding or plan for how to meet its targets to improve skills.

We need nothing less than an adult skills revolution. In Equipped For The Future, we bring together business leaders, policy experts, politicians, trade unionists and practitioners to lay out how to make that a reality.”

David Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, says:

“This publication from the Fabian Society and Community comes at a critical time. The decarbonisation agenda, new technology, and longer working lives are driving a rapidly changing world of work – one that necessitates a meaningful entitlement to lifelong learning. This publication sets out imaginative perspectives and proposals to make this a reality.”

Amanda Mackenzie OBE, Chief Executive of Business in the Community, says:

“From working with business leaders and education providers, we see the importance of skills and education in helping people gain access to more employment opportunities. Government and businesses working together can reimagine the skills system in the UK so that it works for everyone. There should be no politics involved, just wanting to do the best for our young people.”

Bhavina Bharkhada, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Make UK, says:

“The ambition to meet our net-zero goal is fuelling the need to secure green skills. But with the world of work changing so rapidly, how we rise to meet that ambition will require a radical rethink of how we upskill and retrain the workforce.

The manufacturing sector is uniquely placed to support in this transition, but creating a flexible skills system that can adapt to future needs will be critical to our collective success.”

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive of AELP, says:

“The Fabians’ and Community’s latest policy report on skills and lifelong learning comes at a crucial time for our economy. Training providers have a great record of delivering the skills that individuals and businesses need, and they would like to do more. Yet they are consistently put at a disadvantage by an outdated, underfunded system, which focuses on institutions rather than learner and employer choice. This needs to change. I was delighted to share my thoughts on how apprenticeships and other work-based programmes can supercharge a skills revolution in our lifetime.”

Jeff Greenidge, Director for Diversity at the Education and Training Foundation and the Association of Colleges, says:

“Education has the power to be transformational, equipping people with the skills they need for life and work in a volatile changing economy. It can also give learners the ability to navigate a complex world with an ethical compass. Our skills system must be reimagined to make the most of this potential.”

Elena Magrini, Head of Global Research at Emsi Burning Glass UK, says:

“Skills are a key determinant of prosperity both for individuals and for places. At the root of current regional inequalities there are marked differences in education attainment. Investing in adult education and training would help tackle inequalities between different places while supporting individuals to adapt in an ever changing labour market. While this is a national challenge, the solution is very much local: local authorities, businesses and education providers need to come together to understand their local economy and ensure their skills investments are aligned with current and future business needs.”

The report launch is part of Learning at Work Week, a time for raising awareness on continued development through adulthood. The theme for Learning at Work Week 2022 is Learning Uncovered.

The Changing Work Centre was established by the Fabian Society and the trade union Community in February 2016 to explore progressive ideas for the modern world of work.

The full Equipped For The Future report can be read here.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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