This country has double the proportion of adults with the lowest level of basic skills compared with counties such as Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. Just over a half of adults in the UK are qualified to level 2 (the equivalent of five GCSEs, grades A-C) or above, whereas in Germany this figure is nearer three-quarters. At level 3 (broadly A-level, NVQ 3) our relative position is even poorer. Around 60 per cent of the population were qualified to this level in Germany, twice the proportion in the UK. Although we have made some progress since then, our position relative to Germany remains poor.
Nor is the world standing still. In a globalised economy, in which technological change is rapid and continuous, productivity and competitiveness depend fundamentally on the skills of the workforce. Individual security in employment, and national economic prosperity, are dependent on the possession and continual renewal of skills and knowledge.
This is the skills challenge we face, and I make no apology for the vigour with which we are tackling it. Inevitably, in a period of rapid change it can be difficult to keep up with developments across the board. However, the Government is guided by the needs of employers and employees. Our surveys have shown that many employers know the broad outlines of our policy and are well-informed about many of the details. More than that: they are also actively involved in delivery.
Nick Reilly, chairman and managing director of Vauxhall Motors, for example, has formed an influential business group to encourage employers' involvement. I have just completed a series of regional conferences about the new arrangements to which more than 500 local delegates came.
At the heart of the new arrangements is the Learning and Skills Council, which will simplify post-16 learning by replacing the current fragmented system with a coherent single body. It will work with other key national and local partners including the UfI and the local Learning Partnerships for planning, funding and, most importantly, for improving the quality of all post-16 learning up to degree level.
In the same way, the Small Business Service will offer a single point of contact for business support while the Employment Service will work closely with the local LSC, and other partners, to deliver work-based training in a joint Welfare to Work plan for sustained employment. Personnel Today readers will not have been helped by your confu