Today (21 Jan) we see the launch of the Skills for Jobs White Paper, which presents a critical opportunity to create the kind of policy environment in England that is needed now and in the future.
For almost two years the Independent Commission of the College of the Future has been working with the education sector, employers, students, unions and others to set out an ambitious future vision for colleges across the UK fit for a fairer, more sustainable and prosperous economy.
Does the White Paper meet our ambitions for delivering on one of our key themes: productivity?
The devastating impact of COVID-19 is creating the perfect storm to kickstart action. The pandemic has brought change and is also augmenting many of the trends already in train.
The crisis comes on the back of a very turbulent period, not only shaped by significant economic shocks such as the global financial crisis in 2008 and Brexit, but longer running global megatrends that impact the future of work - note demographic and climate change, along with technological advances.
Lockdowns have accelerated technology adoption and innovations in ways of working. At the same time, it has highlighted threats and challenges to industries requiring face to face contact such as hospitality, as well as accelerating long-running industrial decline in others, to which we need to respond.
There will need to be an increasing pace of learning, retraining, and upskilling – both in and out of work.
Indeed, the CBI anticipate that 9 out of ten employees in the workforce in the next ten years will require upskilling and the OECD estimate that most jobs in the future will require modest to significant amounts of training ranging from at least 1 year to over three years.
This all raises important future priorities for colleges. But unlocking the positive benefits is not inevitable or easy. That’s why it is significant that colleges are starting to be recognised by the UK Government for their potential to build back better and level up.
The very premise of the White Paper acknowledges that increasing skills demands in a modern digital-enabled economy, combined with long running and deep-rooted skills deficiencies in key growing sectors, calls for a better solution to enhance the effectiveness of the skills system.
Putting employers at the heart of a revolutionised system
The Government has rightly committed to putting employers at the heart of a revolutionised system. Colleges have a strong track record working with employers, of all sizes and sectors. An expanded role for colleges in boosting productivity through strengthening strategic partnerships with employers has been a central theme in the work of the Commission.
Lesley Giles, Independent Commissioner and Director of Work Advance
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