Skills timebomb threatens UK workforce productivity

Employers need to get their heads out of the sand and stop seeing training as simply the responsibility of schools or government if the UK is to have a hope of competing effectively in the future, a leading economist has warned.

Professor Mike Campbell, director of strategic research at Skills for Business, told Training Magazine there needed to be more joined-up thinking on skills from ministers, the education sector and employers alike.

With 80% of the current UK workforce still likely to be working in 15 years’ time, it was not just schools or universities that needed to take a lead on developing skills, but employers too, he warned.

“Employers have got to deal with the workforce they have now. What we are trying to say is that it is part of improving business performance, productivity and growth prospects as a whole,” he said.

Campbell’s call came as Skills for Business last month criticised employers for being too complacent when it came to training and skills; a head-in-the sand approach that posed a long-term threat to the UK’s economy.

Its survey of 13,000 employers found that, while three in five employers felt problems were looming as the workforce aged, the level of training had remained static – a recipe for a “skills timebomb”.

Two out of three employers admitted to having problems recruiting new employees with the skills they needed, yet three in five did not provide yearly training plans for their employees.

And half of employers believed the skills required by UK workers had remained largely unchanged, ignoring the rapid technological advances and the increasing threat of international competition, said Skills for Business.

In a separate development, John Sutherland, president of the CBI, last month warned that employability had to be put at the heart of England’s education system if businesses wanted the skilled workers of the future they needed.

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