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19 December 2018

UK skills training must adapt to secure futures of businesses and young people

The UK's skills set must become broader and more accessible as there are not enough suitably-trained employees to meet business needs, according to Enterprise M3 LEP Chair Dave Axam.

There is presently a shortage of skilled workers in many industries and young people are being let down by vocational courses which are not aligned with the opportunities generated by the economy. There are also issues with older people not being able to reskill and participate fully in an innovative, rapidly-evolving job market.

With figures showing that Germany, France and the US all produce 25 per cent more per hour than the UK, Mr Axam said: "So, where are we going wrong in the productivity rankings? The only consensus appears to be that the UK hasn't got its skills agenda right to deliver the productive workers our companies need."

His remarks come in the wake of an announcement from Damian Hinds, Education Secretary and East Hampshire MP, on plans to get more people into skilled jobs.

Mr Hinds highlighted how in 2017, employers reported difficulties finding the right skills, qualifications or experience for 42 per cent of skilled trades vacancies, and that the UK needed more computer programmers, engineers, electricians, chefs and technicians in fields from advanced manufacturing to healthcare, and from construction to telecommunications.

He unveiled a four-point plan to address the deficit:

  • "Overcoming our system's failure to match skills with the labour market need" and using Local Industrial Strategies to ensure employers have influence over college courses.
  • Creating "clear, simple" paths for young people choosing technical study at 16.
  • Establishing good-quality, higher technical qualifications.
  • Parity of esteem Britain must drop its ‘snobby' attitude to technical and vocational education.

"I couldn't agree more with Damian's plans to broaden access to skills and education," Mr Axam said. "My own education, skills and career journey, coupled with my management experience, have taught me there shouldn't be a distinction between academic and vocational, graduate and apprentice."

He also stressed the importance of life-long learning so that in a fast-moving economy driven by unprecedented technological changes, people across all generations can reskill, remain in employment and contribute to innovation and productivity in the economy.

This approach needed to be adopted by further education colleges and businesses, and "underpinned by good information, advice, and guidance with work relevant experience; such as the work our careers team is doing through the Enterprise Adviser Network."

Read Dave Axam's blog for more in this topic.



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