Leitch Review response calls for skills revolution to keep UK competitive in global economy

The government has called for a ‘skills revolution’ in its official response to the Leitch Review, setting out what it will do to tackle the looming skills shortage in the UK.

Skills secretary John Denham told MPs that the government would aim to bring about a skills revolution to make UK skills sit within the “top quartile” of leading global economies by 2020.

Leitch warned that unless the UK becomes a world class provider of skills by 2020, it will face a “bleak future” compared to the likes of India and China.

Denham reminded the House that to achieve the “huge” targets set out in the Leitch Review, including getting more than 90% of adults trained to Level 2 (the equivalent of five GCSEs), and over 40% of adults qualified to Level 4 or above by 2020, there needed to be a culture change in both employers and individuals.

Training must be delivered to employers’ needs and be “demand-led”, he said, adding that employers had a shared responsibility to achieve this.

Denham highlighted the Train to Gain initiative, which uses ‘skills brokers’ to assess individual company needs and develops bespoke training packages.

He also reminded MPs of the skills pledge, launched in June, where many large employers had already committed to training their staff to level 2 by 2010,  and of the TV ad campaign to drive up interest in skills.

The Liberal Democrats said much of Denham’s statement was simply a restatement of the Leitch Review targets, and a re-announcement of previous statements from other ministers.

On behalf of Liberal Democrat shadow education secretary Sarah Teather, a party spokesman asked what the government meant by “refocusing the sector skills councils” and calls for more employers to collaborate with universities.

“Most employers already collaborate with universities,” the spokesman said. He asked the government to clarify what it meant by “stepping up the drive” on the skills pledge.

Conservative shadow education secretary David Willetts said the government’s response was a “downgrading of ambition” from previous statements on skills.

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