Re-skill, not up-skill says DIUS

Posted on 16 Jan 2009 by The Manufacturer

The government must focus on training workers for new industries instead of improving their current skill-base, says a report released today from the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee.

Examining Lord Leitch’s 2006 review of skills, the Committee advises a radical overhaul of the government’s Train to Gain vocational training scheme and suggests the programs within it need to be restructured to enable people to move industries in the light of mass-redundancy in areas like automotive for example.

The Chairman of the Committee, Phil Willis MP, said:
“Since Lord Leitch published his review of skills the economic climate has worsened and it is imperative that the Government responds appropriately by making radical changes to its skills policy.

“We support the skills review and want to see it succeed, but urgent changes are needed if employers and individuals are to get the best out of the system.

“The focus must move away from a mechanistic approach to supplying skills and expecting businesses to respond; the UK workforce’s ability to be flexible and have the necessary support in order to adapt to unpredictable economic circumstances is crucial if the economy is to recover and grow.

“The simplistic mantra that by gaining more qualifications skill levels will increase and individuals will become more productive must continue to be challenged.”

The Committee highlighted concerns about employers’ readiness to invest in co-funded schemes during the current economic crisis that continues to rock British business.

Its recommendations are that:

• the new Adult Advancement and Careers Service caters for diverse markets, particularly skilled people with professional or managerial experience requiring a career change, and that trials take place of a single Service for all those over 16

• action is taken by the Government to simplify access and reduce delays in training provision, for those in and out of work

• effective solutions are found to support lifelong learning

• the Government recognises the role of trade unions and Union Learning Representatives

In response, Lee Hopley, head of economic policy for EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:

“This report gets to the crux of the matter which remains the overwhelming complexity of the system which still leaves many employers confused as to what training is available and where to access it. There was an urgent need to step up the pace of simplification even before the economic downturn. Now, with the increased support available for re-training, there is an even greater emphasis on making the system more responsive to maintain a skilled and adaptable workforce.”

EEF said in particular it urges the government to take the following steps with immediate effect:

• Implement the recommendations of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills on simplification of the skills system

• Ensure the new funding available through Train to Gain to support companies in the downturn is properly communicated to businesses

• Support individuals in their skills development with a careers service that address all skills level and skills accounts

Members of the Committee include Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and UK Independence Party MPs. Its website is