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Skills must be more integrated with employability, say experts

Employment programmes should focus more on improving potential employees’ skills, according to speakers at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) National Conference in London.

Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion chief executive Dave Simmonds explained that plans to integrate skills and employability “are nothing new”.

“In the late 80s, when we were also coming out of a recession, people were having these conversations,” he said. “With the current recovery we are going to need to upskill people, both in work and looking for work, to support business growth.”

Simmonds suggested the success of employment programmes should be measured not only by the sustainability of employment but also by wage progression.

“Similar to the US system, this would encourage people to focus on improving skills and not just getting people into any kind of employment,” he said. 

Simmonds said he favours a system where employment programmes are run by local authorities, with a “strong central framework” of support from the government.

Employment minister Esther McVey said the government is helping job seekers by allowing them to keep their benefits while working on traineeships, thus giving them the chance to upskill while financially supported. 

Ingeus UK chief executive Dean James explained that although few would take issue with the “high-level skills agenda” of the government, more needs to be done to ensure skills are embedded into employment programmes. 

“If you look at a lot of large-scale recruitment programmes now, key-word filters mean that people without skills on their CVs will face barriers for the majority of jobs if we don’t help them get to at least a basic level in maths, English and IT,” he said. 

AELP chief executive Stewart Segal added that apprenticeships and traineeships are vital to help people with low skills “be part of the drive for growth”.