On the 13th of February 2019 we hosted at the Work Foundation the launch of the OECD’s report on “Getting Skills Right: Future-ready adult learning systems” funded by JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

The launch provided the opportunity to bring together employers, policymakers, trade unions, providers and wider stakeholders from the UK’s skills sector to reflect on the results and discuss what action is needed moving forward within the UK.

The session enabled stakeholders to discuss the effects of long term megatrends affecting the UK skills system and the world of work and considered factors such as digitalisation, globalisation and population ageing to name a few. The OECD  analysis has suggested that 38% of workers in the United Kingdom are at risk of either losing their job or seeing it change significantly because of automation over the coming two decades.  The discussion then considered the readiness of adult learning system in the UK to help people develop and maintain relevant skills over their working careers so that individuals, firms and economies can then optimise the benefits.

To steer the discussion we had a panel of UK experts giving their views on the likely impacts and what the skills system needed to do to best respond. This panel included:

  • Lesley Giles, Director of the Work Foundation
  • Mark Keese, Head of the Skills and Employability Division, OECD
  • David Hughes, CEO from the Association of Colleges
  • Kevin Rowan, Head of Union Learn at the TUC
  • John Cope, Head of Skills at the CBI
  • Carolyn Downs, a professor from Lancaster University

Participants welcomed the report, and felt that the international analysis was essential in preparing the UK economy for the future, highlighting where the UK came in international rankings and helping identify priority areas for action. There was a concern that future skills investments were appropriately targeted, especially on those most vulnerable groups that lacked many of the “skills for the future” already required, and who therefore risked being left behind.

There was a recognition that the effectiveness of the future system relied upon strong partnership working to support lifelong learning, involving employers, and individuals as well as educators, and not just the efforts of government. The discussion focused on how different parts of the system were working and needed to improve whether regarding labour market assessments of skills demanded, careers advice and guidance and/or the nature of current education reforms such as around T-Levels and apprenticeships. This included considering how funding could be strengthened.

The discussion also underlined the importance of the different parts of the system coming together as a coherent whole, with schools, colleges, universities, private providers and employers working closely to pool resources and expertise to optimise the learning benefits.

If this topic sounds of interest and you wished you had been able to come, you can access the report here.

About the author

Lesley Giles

Director of the Work Foundation