16.01.09

Focus Should Be on Re-Skilling, not Up-Skilling, says MPs Committee

A new report from a House of Commons Select Committee says the current economic climate makes it more imperative, not less, that skills levels in the UK are raised but that the emphasis of the Government’s skills policy should now be on re-skilling rather than up-skilling individuals and employees. And the Committee wants the Government’s targets and its allocation of resources to change accordingly.

The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee took evidence on the Government’s post-Leitch Review skills policy and its implementation. It has come up with a number of key conclusions and recommendations, including:-

  • The need for research into whether increased skills do really lead to an increase in national prosperity as there is a surprising lack of evidence to support the conclusion.
  • Concern that the conflation of skills and qualifications in the Leitch targets may lead the Government to assume that a qualifications strategy is an adequate substitute or proxy for an overall skills policy.
  • Broadening the Leitch skills targets to include re-skilling as current funding entitlements mean that those who need to update their skills, either because they have been out of the labour market for some time or because their job no longer exists, may not be supported. The Committee points out that the situation is set to become even more pressing as the recession bites and redundancies force people to seek to move to other sectors in which their current qualifications are irrelevant.
  • Given the large amount of money spent on it, the need to have a proper evaluation of the outcomes of all aspects of the Train to Gain programme and to ensure it is made flexible enough to deal with rapid adjustments for people who have been made redundant and need quick re-training.
  • Strong support for the UK Commission for Employment Skills’ simplification project for skills and training provision in the UK, but a wish to see it expanded to cover the difficulties faced by individuals in accessing training and to address planning structures, as well as delivery bodies and programmes.
  • The need for a period of relative stability in institutions and programmes, following the forthcoming demise of the Learning and Skills Council.
  • A review of funding for adult apprenticeships and a report on measures to encourage and strengthen them.
  • The need for serious consideration to be given within the qualification reform process to the accreditation of prior learning and to accommodate non-traditional courses leading to the acquisition of skills at an appropriate level – such as bite-sized courses or part-time or informal training.
  • The Government keeping the option of making it compulsory for employers to provide training and to review introducing compulsion if sufficient progress hasn’t been made by 2014.
  • A much higher priority to be given to supporting people who have been out of the workforce for a long time and who wish to return to work either with, or developing, adequate skills to do a job with progression.
  • A strong belief that a single Careers Service should cater for both young people and adults – with a recommendation that one of the trials of the new Adult Advancement and Careers Service should test out a unified Careers Service and a period of consultation with stakeholders before the AACS system is made universally available in 2010.
  • A conclusion that it would be a disaster if the Leitch targets lead to a concentration on the quick wins of qualifications for school-leavers at the expense of older workers who have just as much aptitude and ability.

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