Working in partnership is the only way to close skills gap in the UK

The link between education providers and employers must be improved to tackle the UK’s skills gap, business leaders urged last week.

Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) annual conference, Bill Midgley, president of the BCC, said employers needed more effective collaboration with the further education (FE) sector. “Equipping businesses with the skills they need is one of the biggest challenges we face,” he said.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said that educators should think of local employers as their main customer base. “More needs to be done to ensure young people get a better understanding of the world of work and what it involves.”

But Janet Rogers, head of employee engagement at Preston College, said it was difficult to get small businesses to work with local colleges, and that there was an “information gap” between educators and employers.

Christopher Banks, chairman of the Learning and Skills Council, which has invested 10.4bn in learning programmes in recent years, said the FE sector was beginning to listen to businesses.

To this end, a new body to help improve the quality of further education was launched last week by education secretary Ruth Kelly.

The Quality Improvement Agency for Lifelong Learning will provide advice and support services to help colleges and providers offer high quality education and training programmes. It will also work with a range of organisations to develop a new national quality improvement strategy for FE.

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