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Rising to the UK’s Skills Challenges

This publication calls for a clear overarching vision for UK skills and a long-term commitment to delivering it in partnership.

It explores what is needed to tackle the challenges identified in our first paper, which highlighted a pressing need to shift to a new norm of lifelong learning in response to longer working lives and rapidly changing skills demands.

Covid 19 is likely to accentuate many of the trends highlighted in our first paper and, possessing a combination of skills to support job specific skills will be even more important to adapting within, or shifting between jobs. People of all ages have had to adapt rapidly to increased use of digital technology to interact, work and learn during isolation. Digital skills were expected to experience the most widespread under-skilling by 2030 in UK Skills Mismatch in 2030.

This second publication presents evidence on skills challenges facing the UK, focussing on four key areas:

  • Employer investment in training -UK employers stand out internationally for their preference to recruit rather than train. Apprenticeships are an important part of the solution to increasing employer investment in training, but so are shorter, upskilling and retraining options. Digital developments can offer innovative, flexible solutions.
  • The role of managers in skills development and utilisation - Managers and leaders need upskilling to fulfil their crucial role in championing and monitoring learning. Better data and systems to monitor the impact of training, will help managers to foster and support workplace skills development and utilisation.
  • Effective strategic and/or local partnerships - A partnership approach to skills development is needed. Policy stability and continuity emerges as important for employers to navigate the skills system and establish effective partnerships.
  • Creating a positive lifelong learning culture - Developing an effective lifelong learning system for all is essential. Information campaigns, employer and union learning representatives, and managers can all play a role in communicating the benefits and necessity of lifelong learning.

Andy Haldane, Chair of the Industrial Strategy Council said:

‘Deficiencies in the UK skills system are long-standing and deep-seated. The recovery from the Covid crisis will be faster and more sustainable if this system can be improved through partnership between workers, employers, training providers and Government.’

Roy Rickhuss, member of the Industrial Strategy Council said:

‘The context in which we are now operating increases the urgency with which partners in the skills system need to adapt and respond. It amplifies the need for a clear overarching vision which can guide skills partners to work together and adapt to rapidly changing skill demands. Increased engagement  of trade unions and employers in the design and implementation of skills provision will be key in driving up participation in job-related training and cultivating a lifelong learning culture. Social partners played a greater, and important role in education and training systems in all of the international case studies that informed this paper.’


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