The UK risks becoming a low-value, low-skills economy after Brexit, according to research from the CIPD.
From ‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’: making the UK’s skills system world class found that England and Northern Ireland together rank in the bottom four OECD countries for literacy and numeracy among 16- to 24-year-olds, indicating that a major skills gap could be on the horizon.
UK employers also spend less on training than other major European economies and less than the EU average. In 2010 the cost per employee was €266 in the UK, compared with €511 across the EU. The UK is fourth from the bottom in the EU league table on participation in job-related adult learning, with evidence showing a marked deterioration since 2007.
Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser for the CIPD and co-author of the report, said the government must take action. “We can either take the high road as a nation; with government, employers, education and business support groups working in partnership to boost investment in skills and create more high-value, high-productivity workplaces, or we can keep doing what we’ve always done and get the same mediocre results,” she said.
She added: “The government should seize this moment to raise the ambitions of the UK. We need to lift the lid on what is happening in UK workplaces and address skills at a much deeper and broader level than ever before. Successive governments have merely tinkered around the edges of skills strategies that have ultimately failed to deliver. Now is the time for real and lasting change and a clear plan of action to address skills at a national, sector and local level.”
The CIPD is calling on the government to make additional skills funding for the workplace a priority, suggesting that it could, for example, divert £1 billion (5%) of the National Productivity Investment Fund announced in the Autumn Statement and about £2 billion of the total funds raised by the apprenticeship levy into training.
Additionally, it advises reframing the apprenticeship levy as a training levy to make it more flexible for employers and to boost individuals’ skills.
“While more efforts are being made to reform education it’s clear that there needs to be a much greater emphasis on learning and development in the workplace,” added Crowley. “As we move towards Brexit, and possible restrictions on overseas talent, it’s crucial that government works in partnership with education providers and businesses to address these deep-rooted issues that continue to blight individual and business potential.”