OECD reaffirms NIACE’s concerns

13 November 2014

Greater challenges to meeting future skills gaps and skills shortages have been highlighted by the OECD today.

In its report Skills Beyond School the OECD notes that England and Northern Ireland ‘stand out as countries where, relative both to other countries and to potential demand, there is limited provision of postsecondary vocational training, potentially leading to a shortage of mid-level skills’.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“This is yet another alarm bell which highlights the challenges for skills training in the UK. Let’s hope it’s a final wake-up call coming on top of similar concerns just this month from the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning.

“There are already major skills shortages across the workforce. Over the next 10 years, there will be almost two vacancies for every one new entrant to the labour market. Employers have a shortage of workers with higher-level skills. The OECD is now warning of a shortage of mid-level skills.

“This report highlights why the strong emphasis of our current system on the best qualified young people going to university before they start work – is at the expense of designing a system which meets the skills needs of all young people as well as adults in work or trying to find work. This is immensely damaging for our economy.

“I am encouraged that the OECD supports our view that we not only need to encourage young people to get into work, but we need to do much more to help them to progress to higher-levels throughout their careers. We need more flexibility in how learning is delivered, new qualifications, a new framework which provides incentives for colleges and training providers to develop a new skills offer and which will help workers learn in a way that suits them, potentially using unit-based delivery. A key priority must be to address the enormous drop in learning which has happened since Advanced Learning Loans were introduced for people aged 24 and over as well as the similar drop in part-time higher education in the last 3 years.

“We face a stark choice. We either take a radical new approach to post-school skills training or we face a future of skills shortages and skills gaps going unfilled. We must find a cross-party consensus which provides confidence to learners, employers as well as colleges, universities and training providers to invest in and deliver a highly trained, motivated workforce who can thrive in their careers. That would ensure greater success for their employers. We have the knowledge, vision and experience to get this right – the alternative is not an option.”

The report’s recommendations that support NIACE’s priority actions for the next Government include:

  • Post-secondary vocational education and training plays an under-recognised role in country skill systems.
  • The guiding theme of this report is the need to work with social partners to ensure. training provision matches the needs of the labour market.
  • Institutional and funding barriers need to be overcome.
  • Basic skills are critical both for labour market success and to support further learning.
  • Adult learners need flexible modes of study.
  • Transition from professional education and training to academic programmes can be difficult.