High Level Skills consultation launched to strengthen employer/university relationship

A new government consultation has been launched to strengthen the relationship between employers and universities for more tailored skills.

The High Level Skills consultation would seek industry views on how to raise the skills of those already in work, and those graduates looking to enter the workplace.

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, expressed concern that government’s policy announcements on skills were taking time to see firm action.

Martin Temple, EEF chairman, said the consultation was a welcome shift away from targets for targets’ sake. “As in so many other areas of policy, we now need to see encouraging words turned into firm delivery.

“Employers see strong skills in communication, teamwork and business acumen as key attributes. As such, EEF supports the greater focus on employability and the responsibility of universities to deliver this. This will be vital if universities are to help deliver on the government’s innovation and enterprise agendas which business and industry strongly supports,” he said.

It follows an earlier announcement to get 20,000 full-time equivalent additional students co-funded by employers and the Higher Education Funding Council for England by 2010/11.

In December Bill Rammell, minister of State for higher education said that £105m would be allocated over three years to provide for those places, with £15m allocated in 2008-09, rising to £40m in 2009-10 and at least £50m in 2010-11.

Rammell hghlighted the need to increase the proportion of workers with high level skills from 31% to 40% by 2020, as recommended by Lord Leitch in 2006, to meet the global skills challenge.

“Research suggests that approximately four million people are already considering or would consider higher education and a further six million could be persuaded under the right circumstances. There is latent demand for higher level skills within the workforce but releasing it will require changes to the design, delivery and funding of learning to be more responsive to employer needs,” Rammell said.

Key areas of the consultation include:

  • How business, trade unions, employers and employees can work better together to encourage demand for high level skills

  • What incentives are working/required to encourage colleges and universities to be more responsive to business and employer demand

  • What support would help colleges and universities extend access to work placements to all their students

  • How employers can become more involved in providing careers information for pupils during their education

  • How to increase the number of people with the specialist qualifications that many businesses desire.

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