What is the role of employers in an effective skills system?

Policy Connect and Learning and Work Institute have launched a joint inquiry into the skills system. The inquiry looks at what can be done to achieve a skills ecosystem that responds to both local needs and national economic priorities.

A well-known, or perhaps notorious, fact about the current government approach to skills provision is the idea that it should be employer-led. Initial evidence shows that while the flexibility of provision might be well-intended the experience for employers is often that it is too confusing. Verity Davidge, Head of Education and Skills Policy at Make UK said: “A lot of the companies we speak to say that they’re disengaging with the system because they simply don’t understand” and that “many employers are now saying: ‘don’t talk about T-levels, I’m still getting my head around apprenticeships’”.

Employers are also reporting feeling squeezed by the skills gap, especially as technology and Brexit add both short-term and long-term disruption. Marguerite Ulrich, Chief Human Resources Officer at Veolia said:  “We have to close that gap in their education, [...] some of the basic skills aren’t there. And then you add in that they’re now going into this digital world and they’re even more disadvantaged”.

The inquiry will be focusing on the role of employers in the skills system with a focus on the following questions:

  • What can be reasonably demanded from them in terms of time and resources?
  • What are the different experiences for SMEs and large employers?
  • Should government and skills providers continue to engage employers on an individual basis or should there be more formal employer organisations?
  • What is the role of digitalisation?
  • How is the skills system adapting to future employer needs?

We call on all APMG members to share their experiences. Please fill out the Call for Evidence to tell us what kind of skills system you want, whether the current system is effective, and what is needed to achieve a successful one.