17 January 2018

  |  CBI Press Team

Update

Fresh approach needed to make English skills reform last

National policy agreement and local business leadership essential.

Businesses, the Government and learning providers must take a fresh approach to skills in 2018. 

In a new report, In perfect harmony, the UK’s leading business group argues that 28 skills reforms in 30 years have alienated firms, confused learning providers and failed to deliver on skills needs.

The CBI urges policy makers, businesses and providers to collaborate and design a stable national framework for skills - based on the Government regulating for quality, rather than designing qualifications as has happened in the past.

Businesses are clear the current reform programme can meet skills needs if Government ensures it reflects businesses’ views on new T-Levels, apprenticeship reforms and the National Retraining Partnership.

Neil Carberry, CBI Managing Director for People policy, said:

“Skills are vital if we are to adapt to new technologies, increase our global competitiveness and deliver higher wages. They are the very heart of a successful industrial strategy. But that means we need a skills approach that lasts for 50 years, not five.

“Too often skills reforms have been well-intentioned, but do not work for learners or businesses across the country, so the system is reinvented again.  The Apprenticeship Levy is the latest example of a policy that’s not yet right - the CBI has been clear that it must evolve for the levy to work effectively. 

“There is an opportunity now to establish a stable framework for skills in England – by the Government reviewing the Levy and creating a world-class technical system through T-levels. If we all work together to get this right, confidence can be built that the English skills system won’t keep changing, enabling firms and skills providers to invest. 

“Companies need to get stuck in and engage to help create a more flexible and business-focussed skills system that will benefit their people, their business and the local economy. This report highlights some great examples of innovation and collaboration to create high-quality training – the right national approach can unlock this kind of fantastic local leadership across the country.”

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • A national, stable and joined-up skills plan must be central to the Government’s Industrial Strategy - developed and delivered with business and skills providers
  • Give the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education the power to regulate and report on the performance of the skills market
  • Evolve the Apprenticeship Levy into a flexible skills levy so firms can fund training for their people whatever the form of high quality course they do
  • Pilot local Apprenticeship Levy pooling in at least four English regions – and roll out a full system by 2020 - to better engage smaller firms in new training clusters
  • Firms should commit to engaging with skills at a senior level – and assign staff time to ensuring provision meets their needs
  • Local leaders, including LEPs, Mayors, businesses and learning providers must create local skills plans that address their skills demands.