Improving the UK Secondary Skills System

A recent study of the UK skills system highlighted several shortcomings and offered recommendations for improving post-16 education.

The study recommended expanding the scope and quality of life-long vocational training. Such training is critical to the UK’s long-term growth prospects and a key to both organisational and individual competitiveness. Their findings and recommendations are grouped around six themes outlined below.

Strength and stability in the skills system

  • Skills policy should be the permanent political responsibility for the Department of Business, Enterprise, Industry and Science (BEIS).
  • Government should consider establishing a strategic body to recommend and deliver post-16 education.
  • Government must ensure that ALL money raised by the apprenticeship levy is spent on adult skills improvement and training.
  • The post-16 education and training sector must be given higher priority to meet the demand for technical and intermediate qualifications.

Improving basic and core skills

  • Within ten years maths and literacy at the 15-year level must match other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.
  • Within ten years computer skills at the 15-year level must be competitive with other OECD nations.
  • Within ten years reduce the share of low-level qualifications jobs in line with other major OECD nations.

Increasing the quality of vocational pathways

  • The apprenticeship levy should be reconsidered as a flexible training levy.
  • Apprenticeship standards should be reviewed to expand their scope, reduce overlap and promote level 3 qualifications.
  • The relationship between social and industry partners should be reinforced ensuring a better balance between employers and social and professional groups.

Building capacity at a local and workplace level

  • Local Enterprise Partnerships should offer support to SMEs around people management, particularly skills development.
  • The BEIS should consider supporting the improvement of employer, union and employee partnerships with the goal of improving business performance.

Promoting lifelong learning

  • Government should consider reinstating Personal Learning Accounts linked to high-quality careers information, advice and guidance.

Quality careers information, advice and guidance

  • The CEC needs to further supported to ensure prioritisation of careers advice and guidance.
  • Schools whose career provision is substandard can not be considered as outstanding under the Common Inspection Framework.
  • Government must improve the quality, timeliness and length of time young people are reviewed to improve schools destination data.

To summarise the study recommendations: No single organisation can effectively address the issues of a rapidly changing technological landscape. Government, schools, industry, organisations, and employees must work together to improve the quality of the UK skills system. Significant changes in how we collectively develop skills are required.

This article is a summary of the CIPD analysis.

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