NEETs are not just young people – NIACE CEO responds to Productivity Plan

10 July 2015

Responding to the publication today of the Productivity Plan, David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“Whilst it is absolutely right that education and skills are a key focus of the Government’s Plan to raise the nation’s productivity, the proposals announced today place too narrow a focus on young people and qualifications.

“Supporting young people with better pathways is critical, but we need to promote a universal culture of lifelong learning that fosters the skills and talents of the entire UK workforce to achieve a truly bold vision for tackling the current low and damaging levels of productivity. Helping more people through high quality apprenticeships will help improve productivity, but that alone is not enough.”

NIACE believes that:

  • the new Apprenticeship Levy is a bold and ambitious step which will help halt the long term decline in employer investment in skills;
  • the Levy must be used to better access to Apprenticeships, more engagement with small and medium sized employers and better outcomes for apprentices who want to invest in their careers and get high quality support;
  • a simpler system is essential and the measures to move funding away from a per qualification basis are very welcome;
  • the invitation for local areas to participate in the reshaping and commissioning of local provision will better meet employers’ specific demands – as proposed in the NIACE manifesto in June 2014;
  • the plans for further devolution to Greater Manchester and the ambition towards devolution deals to other areas are vital if we are to achieve the truly joined up local commissioning that’s needed on employment support and employer engagement in skills; and
  • while qualifications are part of the picture, better routes for young people are important, including work experience, more emphasis on soft skills and attitudes and support from employers to connect with schools and colleges.

David Hughes continued:

The Productivity Plan ignores those already in work. Fiona Kendrick, CEO at Nestle set out clearly this week how important it is for her company to support better pathways for young people as well as supporting her existing workers to progress into new roles. She is right and most employers now recognise that the basic skills, including digital skills of all workers are holding back improvements in job design, continuous improvement approaches and learning of higher level skills. The Productivity Plan does not address these challenges enough.

“As a nation we need to get to grips with our ageing population and start to view that as an opportunity rather than a problem. Older workers have all sorts of skills, but they often lack the support and the confidence to be able to learn new skills as the workplace evolves. Technological changes and new approaches to work need confident, competent people and that requires a new approach and attitude to learning in the workplace. We look forward to working with the Government to help them get this right.”