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An Action Plan for World-Beating Skills

Technology and the internet have revolutionised the global economy. If we are to succeed and continue to enjoy a very good standard of living we must be able to provide goods and services that are some of the best in the world.

And we have to be able to do that efficiently and competitively. To do that we need a very skilled workforce.

So where do we start from. The skills of our workforce in general are lower than our competitors. That is not to say we do not have some very excellent people, just not enough of them.

Our productivity is 30% below other major economies.

The UK’s problem with developing the skills of our workforce are not new. Brexit is not the trigger for these problems, it brings it into focus.

Over the last twenty years a series of well-intentioned policy reforms have failed during implementation. Resulting in frustration and cynicism. People are say “its going to fail like ‘diplomas’ did”.

We have an academic system which is excellent, but our skills development system is characterised by a lack of consistence and stability. A-Levels are stable - skills qualifications have not been.

The Wolfe, Richard and Sainsbury’s Reports have all resulted in the Reform we are trying to implement. This will improve, in all sectors, the quality of our apprenticeships and technical education (T-Levels). The policy direction is right.

However, Reform is seen by many as separate initiatives. They are not. They are the biggest Reform in a generation. Bigger than other major projects like HS2, Olympics and Nuclear Power.

Unfortunately, we haven’t all got to grips with the scale of it. We must, as frankly failure is not an option. Our economy will not succeed if we have yet another failed initiative. This Reform must work despite the substantial ‘implementation difficulties’ we currently face.

Progress so far has been slow, understandably in a developmental phase. Now we need to step-up the pace. The five areas we need to make urgent progress on are:

  1. Transferring ownership for the Reform from Government to industry and the employers, through the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education;
  2. Fully set up the Institute, staffed with people from industry;
  3. Produce career pathway maps across all sectors so we are clear what apprenticeships and T-Levels are needed, how they support and integrate with each, and what are the priorities;
  4. Streamline the development process and integrate the target for 30% productivity improvement; and
  5. Step up communications to employers, young people, parents and those in the workforce.

If employers, training institutes (public and private), and assessment and awarding organisations all pull together, we can make this work, fixing our skills problem and creating a winning approach which is stable; establishing a robust apprenticeship system with integrated T-Levels, respected by all and as world beating as our A-Levels and Higher Education.