Skills challenges need long-term commitment says new report

The final report from the Industrial Strategy Council’s Skills Insight project, which looks at the UK skills challenges, has called for “A clear overarching vision for UK skills” and said that “a long-term commitment to delivering it will be necessary to reduce future skills mismatches and incentivise lifelong learning.”

In particular, the report finds that union learning and partnerships with employers can be a significant way to address skills challenges in the workplace.

Community’s General Secretary, Roy Rickhuss, was one of the Industrial Strategy Council members overseeing the report.

Roy Rickhuss said:

“The context in which we are now operating increases the urgency with which partners in the skills system need to adapt and respond. It amplifies the need for a clear overarching vision which can guide skills partners to work together and adapt to rapidly changing skill demands.

“Increased engagement of trade unions and employers in the design and implementation of skills provision will be key in driving up participation in job-related training and cultivating a lifelong learning culture. Social partners played a greater, and important role in education and training systems in all of the international case studies that informed this paper.”

The report explores what is needed to tackle the challenges identified in its first Insights paper, ‘UK Skills Mismatch in 2030’, published in October 2019.

The new publication presents evidence on skills challenges facing the UK, focussing on four key areas:

  1. Employer investment in training – UK employers stand out internationally for their preference to recruit rather than train. Apprenticeships are an important part of the solution to increasing employer investment in training, but so are shorter, cheaper means of addressing upskilling and retraining needs. Digital developments offer opportunities for innovative, flexible solutions.
  2. The role of managers in skills development and utilisation – Managers and leaders need upskilling to fulfil their crucial role in championing and monitoring learning. Clear training objectives and career progression pathways within organisations, coupled with better data and systems to monitor the impact of training, will help managers to foster and support workplace skills development and utilisation.
  3. Effective strategic and/or local partnerships – A partnership approach to skills development is needed to address some of the skills challenges identified and deliver the full spectrum of social, economic and cultural benefits. Policy stability and continuity emerges as important for employers to navigate the skills system and to establish effective partnerships with other actors, such as employer organisations and training providers, to help shape vocational training.
  4. Creating a positive lifelong learning culture – Developing an effective lifelong learning system for all is essential to address employers’ changing skills needs and individuals’ longer working lives. Information campaigns, employer and union learning representatives, and managers can all play a role in communicating the benefits and necessity of lifelong learning to employees.

Andy Haldane, Chair of the Industrial Strategy Council said:

“Deficiencies in the UK skills system are long-standing and deep-seated. The recovery from the Covid crisis will be faster and more sustainable if this system can be improved through partnership between workers, employers, training providers and Government.”

The Industrial Strategy Council is an independent non-statutory advisory group set up to develop measures of success for, and assess the progress of, the government’s Industrial Strategy. The Council comprises comprised of 19 leading men and women from business, academia and civil society.

Download a copy of the report.

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