The skills rebalancing act
01 November 2010
The Coalition government faces a significant challenge in the coming years. With debt expected to peak at 74.9% of GDP, cuts announced in the public sector, and a growing necessity for growth from the knowledge intensive private sector industries, the government has committed itself to ‘rebalancing’ the economy.
However, the UK suffers from considerable skills problems, most notably the under-utilisation of skills in the work place. How then is the new government to go about creating a skills system which is fit for the demands of the post-recession economy?
This question was at the heart of the launch of The Work Foundation’s paper, ‘Employability and Skills in the UK: Redefining the debate’, produced in partnership with the LCCI Commercial Education Trust. Participants at the 27 October event, which included presentations from Ian Brinkley, Director of The Work Foundation’s Knowledge Economy Programme and Dr David Guile of the Institute of Education, explored the important but difficult employability and skills debate.
Some argued for greater university involvement in equipping individuals with the necessary ‘employability skills’, whilst others suggested that responsibility lies with employers. Many also criticised both the complexity of the system and the lack of a coherent vocabulary and understanding of the key concepts themselves. As Dr Guile pointed out, in the last ten years alone we have seen terms such as ‘core’ and ‘functional’ skills come and go, only to be replaced by something equally as ambiguous.
The report demonstrates the need for policy makers to tackle these issues now or face compromising the UK’s international economic competitiveness in the coming years. This includes an integrated local approach that involves government, education providers, employers and Local Enterprise Partnerships. It is of critical importance to define exactly what skills we need and match the skills supply to those skills that are in demand across the country. Only then will any form of ‘rebalancing’ take place.