Report calls for workforce re-skilling

16 January 2009

The Government must place re-skilling at the heart of its skills policy in order to meet the challenges of recession and redundancies, say MPs today.

Importance of re-skilling

In its report examining the impact of Lord Leitch’s 2006 review of skills, the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee says that re-skilling rather than up-skilling should be the priority as redundancies force people to move to other sectors.

The Committee also calls on the Government to simplify training and skills provision and says radical reform of the Government’s Train to Gain programme is vital.

Government focus should be on tackling skills shortages and approaching skills as part of wider national economic development planning. The Committee recommends that more flexibility is built into training support to ensure skills development meets current and future demand.

Learning Skills Council

The abolition of the Learning and Skills Council and the creation of a new Skills Funding Agency for post-19 training could add to existing confusion about training and skills provision. The system must be simplified and the Government should quickly provide clarity on the roles of the different organisations and ensure the system can be understood by its users, not only by ‘a few civil servants and a handful of academics’.

It is essential that the Government’s Train to Gain programme is made flexible enough to deal with rapid adjustments for unemployed people who need quick re-training. Aspects of Train to Gain are currently failing to satisfy different demands and unless the programme is radically re-focused one of Leitch’s central reform planks will be lost.

The sustainability of co-funded higher education courses is a concern and the Committee warns that the current economic downturn may affect the willingness of employers to meet the required level of investment.

The Committee also recommends that:

  • the new Adult Advancement and Careers Service caters for diverse markets, particularly skilled people with professional or managerial experience requiring a career change, and that trials take place of a single Service for all those over 16
  • action is taken by the Government to simplify access and reduce delays in training provision, for those in and out of work
  • effective solutions are found to support lifelong learning
  • the Government recognises the role of trade unions and Union Learning Representatives

The Chairman of the Committee, Phil Willis MP, said:

"Since Lord Leitch published his review of skills the economic climate has worsened and it is imperative that the Government responds appropriately by making radical changes to its skills policy.

"We support the skills review and want to see it succeed, but urgent changes are needed if employers and individuals are to get the best out of the system.

"The focus must move away from a mechanistic approach to supplying skills and expecting businesses to respond; the UK workforce’s ability to be flexible and have the necessary support in order to adapt to unpredictable economic circumstances is crucial if the economy is to recover and grow.

"The simplistic mantra that by gaining more qualifications skill levels will increase and individuals will become more productive must continue to be challenged."

Image: iStockphoto

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