Elaine Essery looks at renewed efforts by business and education to reach a consensus on closing the skills gap and awards low marks for effort
Industry and learning need to become partners in creating a skilled workforce and also the right environment in which the habit of learning can flourish.
Few would disagree with this statement, which after all has been kicked around for the past decade, but now there does seem to be a ground swell of high-profile activity to make it a reality.
When the Learning and Skills Act received Royal Assent this summer, it placed employment interests at the heart of the National Skills Agenda.
Employers now have a critical role in saying what skills they need and how they can best be achieved. It makes it vital that industry and education and training providers work together to equip individuals with the skills central to employability in a rapidly changing workplace and business success.
And the soon-to-be more influential Further Education Development Agency is keen to keep this subject in the spotlight as it furthers links with the new Learning and Skills Council on this area.
Earlier this month it raised the subject with Ufi at its Learning 2010 conference.
Dr Anne Wright, chief executive of Ufi, was among those delivering papers. She spoke at the conference on the subject of meeting the skills needs of employers.
“People need to go on learning because of changes in the economy and working practices. We all need to recognise that. It’s a question of making sure we can meet the skill needs of employers throughout people’s working lives,” she says.
IT skills are becoming increasingly important, according to Wright, but, as she points out, the knowledge economy still places a high premium on literacy, numeracy and other key skills.
Wright believes some employers are beginning to see for the first time a convergence between the interests of employees in developing core skills, which they can carry with them to another job, and their own interests in training for business needs.
“Even in what you may think of as knowledge industries, includ