Why the current skills and training system is failing

According to the Future-Ready Schools Commission there is a skills deficit in the UK, with employers struggling with a skills crisis while those in education or training have great difficulty in acquiring the skills they need

The current complex, highly-centralised nature of skills funding and training and careers information has resulted in a national skills system that does not meet the needs of all the people, businesses and local economies it is intended to serve – at least according to the interim report of the Future-Ready Skills Commission.

Based on evidence gathered through an extensive review of the current skills system, the Future-Ready Skills Commission Interim Report 2019 has identified the priorities it believes must be addressed in order to create a devolved skills system that works for schools, employers, individuals and training providers.

“Employers state that there is a shortage of skilled staff, with more than a fifth of roles difficult to fill,” said Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and Leader of Bradford Council. “At the same time, as many as one-in-20 workers lack the necessary skills to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The Future-Ready Skills Commission’s is working out how a regional approach could address the deficit.

“Major structural changes in the economy like automation, the shift to low-carbon industries and the rise of the gig economy mean it is vital people’s skills remain relevant to the labour market, but the current skills system is, arguably, failing those who need it the most. A lack of information about what skills are in demand in a local area means those who could benefit most from training and development are left out.

“Our aim is to design a skills system that meets these challenges and we have identified 10 key principles we need to change if the skills system is to be effective for both employers and workers. The skills system must be more responsive to the needs of local labour markets, with employers able to find people with the skills they need, and individuals being able to make better-informed choices in order to find good quality jobs.

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“The UK economy is at a critical juncture, and with more and more powers being transferred from central government to local areas; we need to make sure meaningful devolution of the skills system is a critical part of that mix – ensuring that employers can recruit the people they need, individuals can better access opportunities and our economy can realise its full potential. This interim report is a key staging post to setting out what the critical issues are.”

Stephen Evans, chief executive, Learning & Work Institute, said, “The majority of people who will make up the workforce by 2030 have already left full-time education, but the numbers of people undertaking further learning or training is in decline. Access to good quality careers advice and information, and new ways of learning that fit with modern lifestyles, are vitally important to make sure people’s skills remain relevant for the changing nature of work over the coming decades.”

The Future-Ready Skills Commission’s primary scope is to understand how the skills system, from post-16 education through to adult skills and career development, could be shaped to better meet the needs of local economies, with greater devolution across England, while meeting future challenges and opportunities in the workplace.

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