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Skills Commission raises four ‘alerts’ on skills provision for UK workforce

22nd September 2014
Skills Commission raises four ‘alerts’ on skills provision for UK workforce ahead of Party Conference season
The Skills Commission has raised four ‘strategic alerts’ that require ‘urgent attention from all players’ across government and the skills sector in its inquiry into skills provision and its appropriateness to the changing structures of work in the UK.
In advance of the three main political party conferences, the Commission has warned that current policies and systems of skills provision are failing to meet the needs of the UK’s changing workplace. It further warns that existing government strategies are hindering, rather than helping the creation of a highly skilled individuals that are ready to enter the flexible 21st century workplace. 
The announcement comes as the Commission publishes the preliminary findings in its ongoing inquiry into Skills and the Changing Structures of Work. Dame Ruth Silver, President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), and Barry Sheerman MP, former Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, are heading the inquiry. The final report is due in late October.
The Commission has identified four distinct trends that it argues have developed into “significant barriers to a successful skills policy” capable of providing a labour market skilled to meet the needs of employers across the UK economy. These four strategic alerts are:
1. Uncertainty around the responsibility for training in an increasingly flexible labour market.
2. Declining social mobility owing to a reduction in the alignment of skills provision to work.
3. Fragmentation in the system making it difficult for employers to engage.
4. Alarming policy dissonance between different central Government departments.
Commenting on the publication of the four alerts, inquiry co-chair Dame Ruth Silver said:
“The structures of work are changing but the structures and practices of training and recruitment are lagging behind and government policies are not always helping. The Commission has identified four clear trends that we believe are deeply undermining our system of skills provision in the UK. It is right that we raise these four trends as ‘alerts’, such is the gravity of the threat they pose, and the urgency with which they must be addressed”. 
Fellow co-chair Barry Sheerman MP added:
“Let us be in no doubt about this. Ensuring the UK has a highly skilled, diverse and responsive labour market is not a party political issue. As all three parties head off to conference I urge all parliamentarians to understand that we must work together, with employers, education providers and all relevant players, to urgently solve the alarming gaps in our system of skills provision”. 
Whilst the Skills Commission welcomes the recent emphasis on ‘employer ownership’ in the UK skills system, it urges the Government to take into account broader workplace, industrial and sectoral changes, alongside helping to ensure that companies fill vacancies and tackle shortages. They warn that skills provision will never be truly aligned to industry unless all stakeholders fully embrace and understand the changing structures of work.