The leading UK employer’s organisation, the CBI, has published a key report today titled: “Tomorrow’s Growth: New Routes to Higher Skills”.
I’m reading it as I write this post, which isn’t straightforward. My interest is in the way it puts the skills agenda right back in front.
In earlier posts I’ve covered some of the issues around the debate over the importance of teaching knowledge versus skills in the curriculum and proposed a different approach which I’ve called ‘The Curate’s Egg’. This also linked to progress on the revised National Curriculum in England, where serious concerns were raised about the proposed History programme of study, particularly at Key Stage 2 (for ages 7-11). Fortunately the Government has responded appropriately.
Back to the CBI’s report (brief pause for a further read).
It sensibly acknowledges right from the start that “higher skills or competencies are a broad concept, based around an individual’s ability to use and assimilate knowledge … There is no universally accepted definition …”. It also distinguishes these higher skills (at university and equivalent levels) from intermediate skills (at post16 school/college levels) and refers to Ofqual’s comparative framework for qualifications set out in the below diagram.
The report goes on to note that:
a) nearly half of all UK employment is set to be in higher skilled managerial, professional or associate professional roles by 2020, and;
b) there is a high (greater than 50%) take-up of vocational options in upper secondary education in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, whereas in the UK it is just 32%.
The CBI provides engineering as an example of an industrial sector where there is an acute and growing mismatch between supply and demand for skills, resulting in cannibalisation of the existing base as firms compete for the best employees. Other key sectors have similar issues. But there is always hope. The CBI and businesses have seen that sixth form student decisions about post compulsory education are becoming more strategic and careers-focused and in response to this there are “more flexible, learn-while-you-earn options, ranging from sandwich courses and better part-time options through to higher apprenticeships …”.This brings us to one critical area of current policy neglect about which I have previously blogged, careers advice. The report states unequivocally:
“We need a comprehensive new approach to advice and guidance, reaching young people as early as possible and based on an inspirational strategy that engages businesses with young people. Rather than handing out information, careers guidance has to be about helping young people navigate all the information they already have at their fingertips more effectively. “
The CBI concludes that “LEPs [Local Enterprise Partnerships] are ideally placed to map local skills needs and translate the results into longer-term skills strategies supporting economic growth in their area, particularly highlighting the ‘skills leadership’ role that universities and colleges play.”
This last links with an area that I am focusing on with my business: localised strategic education partnerships or LSEPs.