The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) released the first national strategic audit for skills in England yesterday.
The publication Skills for Jobs :Today and Tomorrow aims to share insight into the challenges facing government, employers, public agencies and individuals in rebalancing the UK’s economy and exploiting emerging markets.
Just over one in 10 of the current workforce in England has no formal qualifications, UKCES says, and if the UK is to achieve its competitive potential this skills shortfall must be addressed.
The UKCES audit is supported by 25 sector specific and 10 ‘cluster’ reports which focus in greater detail on what can be done by sector and region to move forward.
The key messages to emerge from the Audit are as follows:
We need intelligent markets that anticipate needs
The National Strategic Skills Audit provides comprehensive market intelligence about the operation of the labour market to better inform current and future decisions of employers, individuals, providers and the skills system. It is impossible to plan precisely the number of skills that we need now and in the future in particular localities. But this high quality intelligence seeks to encourage actors to adapt their behaviour, to stimulate dialogue, and to identify and act on priorities. On the back of this intelligence it is then possible to provide incentives that influence the choices made by individuals and employers.
Skills for jobs matter
Jobs growth is likely to be strong in a range of sectors and occupations, which raises issues for skills needs. To fully maximise economic performance, to generate real opportunity for individuals and for business success, we need to ensure that we supply the ‘right’ skills which effectively meet the changing needs and requirements of the labour market. This calls for a renewal of the commitment to ‘economically valuable skills.’ With an ageing workforce, it also questions the appropriate mode of delivery in future to stimulate effective learning as well as type of learning.
Demand matters as well as supply
There is a significant demand for highly skilled workers in the labour market, with the largest number of people employed now and in the future as managers, professionals, associate professionals and in technical roles, with associated requirements for higher level skills. Significant progress has been made in raising the qualification levels of the workforce and stimulating supply over the past 10 years, so that the supply of highly skilled people is likely to place the UK 10th in the OECD by 2020. This progress needs to be sustained to retain the UK’s international position.
However, we also need to continue to stimulate our demand for, and growth of, high skilled jobs. A range of indicators question our level of employer ambition and whether relative to our international competitors, we have too few businesses adopting High Performance Working practices, investing in long term business development, treating skills as a long term investment, and seeking to operate in high value markets.
High, intermediate and generic skills and jobs matter to future economic growth
The Audit identifies the fundamental importance of increasing skill levels to future economic growth over the longer term. In particular important skills areas include:
- management and leadership skills, and especially corporate managers across a wide range of sectors;
- professional skills in the computing and software sector, in parts of health and social care, in pharmaceutical and medical technology, in manufacturing (i.e. traditional and advanced), especially for STEM skills, and in teaching and research;
- technician and equivalent skills across many sectors, such as health and social care, utilities, chemicals, life sciences and pharmaceuticals, automotive engineering and broadcasting;
- intermediate vocational skills within sectors such as manufacturing, engineering, processing and construction associated with skilled trades as the current ageing workforce retires and emerging opportunities develop in some sectors and to support future demand at technician level;
- the ageing population will lead to increased demand for care services with particularly significant volumes of staff in care assistant roles, that will need greater understanding of ICT to support care users with assisted living technologies;
- customer service and employability skills will be of growing importance to the service sector, including retailing as well as with after-service and maintenance roles in manufacturing and the digital economy.
But low skilled jobs are expected to persist despite the continued growth of highly skilled work within the labour market, and a substantial overall decline in recent years in lower skilled jobs.
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