Skills are a major challenge and opportunity

Welcome to this special edition of Personnel Today, which is themed around the issue of training and skills development.

Lord Leitch’s recently-published Review of Skills called for the transformation of the education and skills system in the UK. Its stark warning about what will happen if skill levels are not at least doubled by 2020 was the catalyst for this unique publication.

The analyses and case studies you will read on the following pages throw a spotlight on one of the most important challenges facing UK employers today: how to develop the world-class skills we need to remain globally competitive. Encouragingly, they also give an insight into steps already being taken to deliver these skills thanks to productive partnerships between employers, their Sector Skills Coun­cils and many other players in the skills system.

These new demand-led training initiatives are beginning to transform lives, careers and businesses in sectors ranging from IT to construction, retail to energy and utilities. They show a route map for the future and it is imperative we follow it.

As 2007 dawns, we are seeing eastern economies such as India and China growing dramatically. The UK cannot afford to stand still.

However, at the heart of Lord Leitch’s message is the fact that more than 70% of the workforce we’ll have in 2020 is already in employment now. We desperately need to develop a culture where individuals and employers recognise the need to invest continually in developing their skill levels.

That is where employers and HR managers come in: their strategic leadership and experience will play a key part in achieving this radical step-change. Central to this approach are the 25 employer-led Sector Skills Councils, which are all usefully listed in this publication, along with their contact details.

For the UK to be internationally competitive, it is vital that the education and training system is simplified, streamlined and more responsive to employer needs. Lord Leitch’s review gives us a blueprint for achieving that and I urge the government to implement its findings in full.

There are challenges ahead for employers, for the government and for all those involved in the development and delivery of skills, but there is also a huge opportunity – one which we simply cannot afford to miss.

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