CBI warns national skills system is dysfunctional

The country is being let down by a dysfunctional national skills system that is seen by many employers as irrelevant in helping them meet business training needs, the CBI has warned.

Unveiling a four-point plan ahead of the Leitch Review on skills, the CBI called for the government to put an end to the mismatch between the £3bn in publicly funded workforce training and employers’ skills needs.

In addition, the CBI believes the UK needs a new careers advice system, reform of skills qualifications, and a pruning of the current ‘alphabet soup’ of skills quangos.

The Leitch Review was commissioned by chancellor Gordon Brown to investigate the UK skills crisis. The interim report said that opportunities for unskilled workers will shrivel from 3.4 million today to 600,000 by 2020, reflecting the urgent need to raise skill levels.

Richard Lambert, CBI director general, said: “To equip the economy for the challenges of globalisation ahead, we have to put employer needs centre stage. The current system does not match public funding and support with what is needed to improve low skills and raise low productivity.

“The careers system is going backwards, there are too many agencies trying but often failing to support firms, and the government’s £3bn funding is too often spent on courses that are irrelevant to the workplace.

“We don’t want another shuffling of the deckchairs within a dysfunctional system. Instead, a closer relationship between businesses and training could really help us face globalisation with confidence.”

The CBI’s four-point plan calls for government action in the following areas:

  • Scrap the current system of ring-fenced government funding for further education colleges by channelling money through the Train to Gain system

  • Create a new professional careers advisory service for all students and adults, available online and providing vital information, advice and guidance to young people and adults

  • Place employers in the driving seat of designing qualifications in a way that reflects the skills needed by the economy

  • Cut the bewilderment of skills bodies and create a simplified system that offers effective support and guidance. A free skills MOT should be offered to all small employers to show the bottom-line benefits of training.

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