Lord Leitch defends his skills report

Lord Leitch was forced to defend his critical report into improving the nation’s skills yesterday in parliament.

The author of the Leitch Review of Skills, published in December 2006, was grilled by MPs from the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee.

His review warned that the UK faced a bleak future unable to compete on a global scale with economies like India and China if it did not act now to upskill workers.

It recommended that employers sign a skills pledge to train their staff to Level 2 and called for 40% of adults to be qualified to Level 4 and above by 2020.

But MPs were doubtful that improving skills was the answer to improving economic growth.

Liberal democrat MP Phil Willis said to Leitch: “I want to challenge the fundamentals of [your] report – that skills equals productivity which equals economic growth. Skills is just one factor in a plethora of factors to drive productivity.”

Leitch defended his report. He said: “I agree with you. I think we said that skills are not the only factor. But there is a clear correlation between skills and employment. We know that workers with higher skills are more productive.”

Leitch also bolstered the use of targets in his report and added they were achievable by 2020.

“We’ve got to have targets Our vision is to be in the upper quartile of the OECD, we have to have [targets] to achieve our vision.”

He added: “There’s not going to be a panacea where employers will wake up tomorrow to say they will do this [provide Level 4 and above training for staff]. Employers such as FlyBe and RBS all want to do it in partnership [with the government]. I for one am confident we can deliver this.”

Earlier this month skills secretary John Denham hinted that employers would not face mandatory targets for training their staff to Level 2, as originally suggested in the Leitch Report.

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