To boost skills, and to keep up with the accelerating pace of technical change, new strategies are being introduced to address issues around lifelong learning and deficiencies in skills
The importance placed on skills and training in the Government’s new industrial strategy, launched by the Prime Minister, has been welcomed by L&D professionals.
Part of the proposed strategy commits £170 million towards creating Institutes of Technology around the country, as a way of bridging the skills gap holding back British businesses.
Other measures include restructuring technical education, replacing “thousands of qualifications, many of which are low quality, with just 15 core technical ‘routes’.”
Skills is one of the most important of the 10 “pillars” outlined in the new proposals, with an emphasis on boosting expertise in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Another priority is to “embed the concept of lifelong learning” to keep up with “the accelerating pace of technological change.”
The strategy document states: “People are living and working longer, but training across working life is going down.”
It warns “The amount of time invested by adults in training mid-career is going down, while employers’ investment in training has been in decline for two decades despite numerous attempts to reverse the trend.”
Commenting on the proposals, Chris Jones, chief executive, City & Guilds Group, said: “Placing skills at the heart of the industrial strategy can only be a good thing for our economy.”
But he added: “The Government must tread carefully. At the moment, we are at risk of initiative overload, what with the apprenticeship levy and the 3m target, the Technical & FE Bill and the Area-Based reviews, among others.”
Jones warned: “We also need to be careful that the Institutes of Technology don’t simply end up being a re-brand of colleges. The funding proposed is not enough to establish new providers.”
A consultation on the proposed industrial strategy is now underway and will end on 17th April. “I hope the Government takes its times, and draws on the views of others, to make sure it can deliver on its promises,” Jones commented.
The renewed focus on developing skills is encouraging, according to Chris Wood, chief executive, Develop Training. The skills gap in certain sectors is so large that unless industry acts now to train large numbers of young people to take up apprenticeships and graduate positions, “we face the very real possibility of the UK’s national infrastructure failing as current workers retire,” said Wood.
A new approach to training is needed for today’s generation, which blends traditional classroom-based education and hands-on learning with “e-learning, the need for self-and peer-supported development, and the development of both digital and personal social skills,” he added.