Three ways to transform our skills system

Raise 16-18 funding by 5 per cent for five years, suggests commission launched to look at the UK's future skills needs

Stephen Exley

Three ways to transform the UK skills system have been suggested by a new future skills commission

The Commission on Sustainable Learning for Life, Work and a Changing Economy was launched by education firm Pearson to look at the future skills needs of the UK.

Chaired by former Commons Education Select Committee chair Neil Carmichael, the commission’s report is published today.

The report draws on the expertise of 18 commissioners and more than 50 witnesses, economic modelling and evidence sessions with employers, educators and the public.

It concludes that reform to the UK skills system could unlock an annual £22 billion “competitiveness dividend”.

Three priorities for action

The report suggests three areas which need to be addressed urgently:

  1. “Ensuring the right provision and flexible pathways are available to give individuals the skills they will need to flourish in a rapidly changing economy.” It calls for broader options for 14- to 16-year-olds, and “three clear pathways” at 16:  an academic route, a career-focused route and a route that leads students to a particular occupation. “Provision for adults needs to be flexible and modular to be easily accessible to those who do not have the time to attend more full-time courses,” it adds.
  2. “Creating opportunities that stimulate and enable lifelong learning.” The report says there is an urgent need to “encourage employers and individuals of all ages to consider training as an ongoing process and instil in them a sense of ownership of their own lifeline learning.” An “easily accessible online portal” should be created for employers to find learning experiences and training, and an all-age career advice and guidance service needs to be put in place.
  3. “Invest further and differently in our education system." All individuals should be entitled to government-supported provision up to level 3, the report states, and 16-18 funding should be raised by 5 per cent each year for five years from 2019. The report calls for a tax rebate scheme for both employers and individuals to encourage them to spend more on learning, and personal training accounts for the low-waged. This echoes calls for increased funding from the Raise the Rate campaign.

Is skills system in step with our economy?

Mr Carmichael said: “UK talent and hard work can help us navigate economic challenges, but only if our skills system is in step with the needs of the economy. Without root and branch reform, future generations will be disconnected from economic opportunities.”

Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice-president for BTECs and apprenticeships at Pearson, said: ”Our education system should ensure that people of all ages have access to the learning opportunities required for them to adapt to our changing world including in the world of work, supporting long-term success in life and careers for all.”

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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