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Bosses should fund graduates' training

Employers will increasingly want graduates to fill jobs in British industry, but firms are unwilling to pay towards their education, Sir Ron Dearing's report concludes.

Instead Sir Ron is looking to companies to fund employees' development once they have a job, and appeals for support with work experience and sandwich years in industry - aspects of higher education much favoured by bosses.

It is a conclusion which has attracted considerable controversy, with union leaders arguing that employers have been let off the hook.

The report itself is unequivocal that education and training, particularly at the higher levels, will be vital to the health of the British economy in future years.

"The UK, in seeking to provide its people with a high and improving standard of living, will be able to do so and remain a major economy only if its people are highly educated and well trained," the report says.

The evidence is less clear, however, about whether the demand will be for traditional graduates, or for people with lower-level professional qualifications.

Certainly many more traditionally non-graduate jobs are being filled by people with a university education, and the Confederation of British Industry's evidence to Dearing points to the increasing value graduates can add to a business.

The evidence Sir Ron presents about graduate pay, also points to that extra value. Graduates can expect to earn around 21 per cent more than non-graduates over their lifetime, a strong indicator that employers value them more highly.

Elsewhere, the report says: "Employers, too, are major beneficiaries of higher education through the skills which those with higher education qualifications bring to the organisations which employ them, and, in the long term, from research findings.

"No company manufacturing high-technology products or providing high-level services in the rapidly developing services sector would have a sustainable business without its share of highly qualified staff."

But the report concludes that the greatest benefits of higher education are enjoyed by graduates themselves, and therefore it is the graduates who should pay.

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