Prioritise skills to deliver prosperity for all

12 June 2014

A radical new approach to reforming the learning and skills system is signalled in a ground-breaking manifesto issued by NIACE, making bold new proposals following recent reports confirming the urgent need for a skills-led economic recovery.

  • The 2013 OECD Survey of Adult Skills reported that too many adults ‘have a higher risk of losing their jobs in today’s rapidly changing global labour market’ as a result of basic skills gaps.
  • The 2014 UKCES Employer Skills Survey highlighted how a third of employees – around 10 million people – receive no training whatsoever in the workplace.
  • NIACE’s 2014 Participation Survey, published today, shows participation in learning declining with age, employment status and socio-economic class, meaning too many adults do not undertake the learning they and the economy need. 

Amongst the radical proposals NIACE is making in Skills for Prosperity: Building Sustainable Recovery for All, are:

  • Secure Personal Skills Accounts for all adults, along with structured career reviews, providing adults with the power to take control of their own skills, putting personalisation and individual choice at the heart of the re-engineered skills system.
  • A “new localism” for learning and skills, delivered through devolution, a strengthened individual-employer-Government partnership, and a new Whitehall Department responsible for business, education, skills and work, tackling the Whitehall silos between DfE, BIS and the DWP.
  • An independent review of the UK’s long-term skills needs and funding issues, equivalent in status to the national reviews of pensions (Turner) and social care (Dilnot).

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“The country faces huge challenges which require a skills-led recovery but our current skills system is not designed to face those challenges.

“There will be 13.5 million job vacancies over the next decade, but only 7 million young people entering the labour market – skilled adults have to fill that gap. The gulf between spending on Higher Education at the expense of Further Education and adult skills is not responsive to employers’ vocational needs.  And increasing life expectancy is already resulting in higher pension, health, welfare and social care costs, as well as poverty in retirement. 

“Longer working lives are a reality we now have to tackle and benefit from. Our manifesto gives all political parties the means to deliver a skills-led recovery which makes the most of greater longevity.  We must empower every adult to take ownership of their own learning and development.  A new ‘learner-centred’ system, and a new localism, will give people, employers and localities more control.  This can meet labour market and skills shortages, fill skills gaps, and help people to stay healthy, productive, happy and prosperous, over longer working lives and in retirement.”

Headline figures from the 2014 NIACE Adult Participation in Learning Survey, published today, show:

  • Around one in five adults (19%) are currently learning, while just under two-fifths (38%) have taken part in learning in the previous three years.
  • Nearly four-fifths (79%) of all learners started their learning for work or career related reasons.
  • 35% of adults have not participated in learning since leaving full-time education, down from 39% in 2013.
  • Around one half of those in the highest classes (47% of ABs; 48% of C1s) have taken part in learning in the previous three years, compared with 34% of skilled manual workers (C2s) and 25% of unskilled workers and people on limited incomes (DEs).