Skills of UK workforce need ‘radical’ reform, UKCES warns

The UK must radically reform the skills of its workforce or risk the economy losing its world-class ranking, experts have warned.

Ambition 2020, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) argues that a staggering 10 million people need to improve their skills if the UK is to achieve its ambition of being in the top eight countries in the world for skills, jobs and productivity by 2020.

In this video, the UKCES team talk about the report and the challenges ahead for employers.


However, the report predicts that the UK economy – currently the sixth-largest in the world – is on course to achieve just half that number and cautions that it is likely to slip down world rankings unless its skills and employment systems are “fundamentally reformed and improved”.

It suggests increasing the number of apprenticeships for young people and adults; giving prospective students better information about the range of courses and qualifications on offer; and encouraging businesses to create highly skilled jobs.

Other recommendations include:

  • improving information, advice and guidance for learners by making the collection and publication of destination and earnings data mandatory for all colleges and universities in receipt of public funding;
  • devolving more funding and decision-making to the front line, for example through Local Employment Partnerships;
  • prioritising public funding towards basic and lower level skills and stimulating greater co-investment with employers and individuals in higher level skills; and
  • taking advantage of the new cap on non-EU migration to ensure that the opportunities created are secured by appropriately skilled indigenous workers.

Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT and the UKCES, said: “In spite of our progress in recent years, other countries are progressing further and faster, as last week’s OECD report on the UK reminded us.

“There is no extra public money available, so what we need to do is encourage a more streamlined system with a ruthless focus on economically valuable skills and the creation of new jobs which put those skills to good use.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business said: “Our priorities are to build an internationally competitive skills base and ensure we have a skills system that supports people into work and then to progress – that is why we are already addressing many of the issues raised by UKCES.

“We have already created 50,000 new Apprenticeship places, and are bringing in a new integrated careers advice service, as well as asking universities to provide information about employability prospects of the degrees they are studying.

“Over the summer we will be consulting with employers, individuals, colleges and training organisations on a future strategy for skills, which will be published in the autumn.”



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