Fresh approach to skills needed, says CBI

Twenty-eight skills reforms in 30 years have alienated firms, confused learning providers and failed to deliver on skills needs, according to CBI

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The apprenticeship levy should be turned into a flexible skills levy so firms can fund more varied training courses for their staff, business group the CBI has urged.

In a new report published today, and entitled In Perfect Harmony, the CBI calls on businesses, the government and learning providers to take a fresh approach to skills in 2018, explaining that 28 skills reforms in 30 years have alienated firms, confused learning providers and failed to deliver on skills needs.

Policymakers, businesses and providers should therefore collaborate and design a stable national framework for skills – based on the government regulating for quality, rather than designing qualifications as has happened in the past.

'National, stable and joined-up skills plan'

The report says a “national, stable and joined-up skills plan must be central to the government’s industrial strategy – developed and delivered with business and skills providers.”

It also calls for the Institute for Apprenticeships to be given the power to regulate and report on the performance of the skills market. The apprenticeship levy, which was introduced last year to help fund the government’s plans for 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, should be evolved into “a flexible skills levy so firms can fund training for their people whatever the form of high-quality course they do".

Apprenticeship levy pooling should be piloted in at least four English regions, says the report, and rolled out to a full system by 2020 to better engage smaller firms in new training clusters.

'Levy must evolve'

Neil Carberry, the CBI’s managing director for people policy, said: “Too often skills reforms have been well-intentioned, but do not work for learners or businesses across the country, so the system is reinvented again. The apprenticeship levy is the latest example of a policy that’s not yet right – the CBI has been clear that it must evolve for the levy to work effectively.”

He added: “There is an opportunity now to establish a stable framework for skills in England – by the government reviewing the levy and creating a world-class technical system through T-levels. If we all work together to get this right, confidence can be built that the English skills system won’t keep changing, enabling firms and skills providers to invest.”

Companies needed to get stuck in and engage to help create a more flexible and business-focused skills system that would benefit their people, their business and the local economy, said Mr Carberry. 

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