‘Perfect Storm’ damaging economic prospects

24 November 2014

Responding to the latest report – ‘Growth Through People’ – from UKCES, David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“There has been a flurry of reports in recent weeks, all spelling out the same set of skills challenges for the economy, for employers and for people’s career hopes. We now have a true consensus, with reports from the whole range of bodies including employers, unions, FE and HE, all adding weight to what NIACE has been saying from our work with learners and adults of all ages. 

“Today’s important report from UKCES, which brings together the CBI and the TUC, as well as major and smaller employers, supports what we say in our general election manifesto – the current skills system is not fit for purpose and needs radical change.

“The analysis is stark. There are wide skills gaps and skills shortages, with low productivity sitting alongside millions of people stuck in low-paid work or not able to access full-time work. We also have an ageing population and need more people in work to find ways to improve their skills. The skills system, meanwhile, focuses mostly on the transition to work rather than supporting people in work. There has been a collapse in participation in part-time higher education, Level 3 and 4 training and a reduction in employer investment in training over the last 5 years. This ‘perfect storm’ is damaging the prospects for a sustained and vibrant economic recovery and limiting the horizons for millions of people who want to get on at work. 

“There are solutions to this. The UKCES itself is a good start in establishing the national and local partnership approach between Government, employers, providers and workers. We need to build stronger social partnerships across the country to deliver a new localism where skills and employment services are better joined up and where employers can work with colleges, universities and other providers to find the skills solutions which support better progression in work and higher productivity.  A key part of this new localism must be the ceding of power from Whitehall to provide true freedoms for colleges, universities and training providers to be more creative in supporting skills delivery.

“My job at NIACE is to push for people to have more power to access the learning and skills they need through measures like Skills Accounts, Career Reviews and an Apprentice Charter. Sustainable and inclusive economic growth will only come about in the next decade if we can motivate and incentivise more people to invest in their own skills, matched by and supported by employers and the Government. We must give confidence to learners and employers that their investment of time and money will result in better jobs, higher pay and increased productivity.”