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Employers must take the lead in skills development, report says

Employers must take the lead in developing skills if the country is to have the workforce it needs to create better jobs and compete internationally, according to a major new report.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills says "urgent action" must be taken to improve skill levels to boost productivity, wages and social mobility

Its report, Growth Through People, published today and supported the CBI and the TUC, calls for employers to work together with unions and the government.

It sets out five priorities for action over the next twenty years, including bridging the gap between education and work, more quality ‘earning and learning’ routes like apprenticeships, and measuring success through outcomes other than just qualifications.

But professor John Coyne, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby and a UKCES Commissioner, told TES that although the skills system should be employer led, colleges should still be heavily involved.

“What we are saying is let’s encourage more of a sense of genuine business partnership where colleges are informed partners shaping something that employers want,” he said.

“We must move beyond the current relationship to one where colleges and employers are designing the system together. The best colleges are already doing this.”

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said it was important that colleges played a key role.

“Employers must work together with the education community to create meaningful qualifications for today’s fast-changing global skills economy,” he said.  

“Colleges already work with an average of 700 employers each in their local area but they are keen to do more to ensure that students leave college with the necessary skills to join local businesses.”

The AoC has called for local ‘careers hubs’ to be set up, with schools, colleges councils and other working together to make young people aware of the different career options and learning pathways open to them. 

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (Niace), said the report supports Niace’s view that the current skills system is not fit for purpose and needs radical change.

He called for a “new localism” with more joined-up skills and employment services.

“A key part of this new localism must be the ceding of power from Whitehall to provide true freedoms for colleges, universities and training providers to be more creative in supporting skills delivery,” he added.

Like the UKCES, Niace has called for a 20 year skills development plan

The report is the latest in a series of analyses from various organisations highlighting weaknesses in the UK’s skills system, including from the Skills Commission, the British Chambers of Commerce , the CBI  and the OECD.

Related stories:

UK skills system 'out of step' with economic needs, report warns – November 2014

Work-based learning must be included in all vocational courses, says OECD – November 2014

Young people lack skills needed for world of work, says British Chambers of Commerce – October 2014

Skills policies failing to meet workplace needs, report finds – September 2014

Education failing to prepare young people for work, employers claims – July 2014

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