Are the storm clouds really rising?

23rd April 2015

A reading of the party manifestos for the election might lead you to believe that NIACE’s recent warnings of a perfect storm in learning, employment and skills have been a little over the top. Despite a growing consensus that the current systems are not working for millions of people, and evidence of growing skills gaps and shortages, there was insufficient commitment shown in the party manifestos to learning and skills much beyond compulsory education.

My blog on the manifestos set out my cautious optimism about the emerging focus on the 19 – 25 phase of education and my concern about what is missing on the wider impacts of learning and the need to support people to enter the workforce and to progress at work. This was profoundly disappointing given the reductions in Government and employer investment in learning and skills over the last 5 years which together have reduced opportunities for millions of people to realise their talents and their ambitions.

To help the next Government, we have worked with our partners at Inclusion to put together 10 simple and practical policies which can be implemented in the first 100 days of the next Parliament. We have been realistic about the lack of new money, so these are cost neutral. The 10 policies are aimed at supporting the life and work chances of millions of people and would support stronger economic growth.

By implementing our proposals, the next Government has a great opportunity in its first 100 days to signal its commitment to a new skills-led and inclusive economy. As we emerge from one of the longest recessions ever, we must improve productivity and we must support adults to have the skills to enter the labour market and stay up to date throughout their careers. Employers are already facing skills gaps and shortages whilst millions of people are stuck in low-paid work or not able to find full-time jobs. Our ageing population, alongside rapid technological change, means every one of us needs to find ways to continuously update and improve our skills.

In essence, we are challenging the next Government to show its colours. Our proposals are not the complete answer but they show that it is possible to make a real difference to people’s lives quickly and without additional public expenditure.  There is a strong consensus across political, business and community interests that our skills system has to change. We believe these policies can start a process to deliver that change.