Government’s skills strategy smacks of Cold War

The government has been accused of taking a “Cold War” approach to skills development and provision by a leading workplace training adviser.

Speaking at the recent annual forum of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), professor Ewart Keep, deputy director of the ESRC Centre on Skills Knowledge and Organisational Performance, said the government’s view on the ‘skills race’ was wrong. “Simply stockpiling a greater number of qualified workers than competitor countries is a bizarre and short-sighted agenda.”

He added: “Poor productivity is the real problem. We have to supply more skills…but in addition we have to do something about boosting the underlying demand for skills in the economy.”

SCDI chief executive Alan Wilson said Keep was right. “Often there is too much emphasis in this country on bits of paper and arbitrary targets and not enough on the skills that a qualification actually gives to a person, or how it serves the needs of an employer,” Wilson said.

“The fact that new Future Skills Scotland research shows that employers are struggling to fill half of all vacancies speak for itself. Skills and education output in Scotland is not marrying up with what employers and the Scottish economy need.”

In a recent article for the Sunday Herald‘s website, Keep said England’s skills strategy is a “clapped-out model born out of a Cold War mentality.”

“The government’s skills strategy, reinforced by the 2006 Leitch Review, is predicated on the assumption that Britain’s best course of action over skills is to panic. Any government minister who talks about skills will unfailingly mention that China and India combined are producing five million graduates a year, while the UK only manages 400,000. It follows that we must be losing the skills race.”

Keep said there was no skills race to win and that the real issue is marrying skills to higher productivity.

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