Upskilling is crucial - and the beneficiary should pay

7th December 2007 at 00:00

I would like to respond to Dr Dennis Hayes' view, reported in the article "Leitch philosophy under attack" (November 16), that there is no connection between qualifications and economic performance.

The argument that skills are a major factor in ensuring future competitiveness is based on well-established evidence, which was thoroughly asserted as part of the Leitch review. In the US, where there are higher stocks of qualifications, productivity is much higher. Skills have also been shown to largely account for the productivity gap between the UK and Europe.

Evidence for individual companies (such as work by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research) also points to links between skills and performance, and shows that companies which train their staff are over two times less likely to fail (see www.ssda.org.uk). Earlier this year, the Sector Skills Development Agency published Skills and Economic Performance, which reviewed the arguments.

But skills alone will not improve performance. The Government's strategy is complemented by qualifications reform, increased investment in innovation, and a major change in business support - to create a circle where demand is raised by increased innovation, enterprise, investment and competition, and met by a stock of workers with the right skills.

A central tenet of Leitch is about shared responsibility for investment. Where learning principally benefits the individual, by enabling them to earn higher wages, they should take on a proportion of the cost; where it mostly benefits the economy, such as by helping the unemployed gain work, the state should pay the lion's share; where it benefits the employer, then that firm's contribution should increase.

Increasingly there is nowhere for low- skill companies to hide. Upskilling can secure a successful economic future for all.

Professor Mike Campbell, director of development, Sector Skills Development Agency, Wath-upon-Dearne, South Yorkshire.

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