CBI: Skill Up or Fall Behind

Tomorrows Growth - New Routes to Higher SkillsThe UK workforce needs to skill up or risk falling behind argues the CBI in its latest report Tomorrows Growth.

A chronic skills gap will continue to hold the UK back unless drastic action is taken to boost skills says the business group.

Relying on current university courses alone will not be enough to meet the increasing demand for degree-level, technical skills syas the report, specifically in the areas of construction, engineering, IT and manufacturing.

The CBI report issues a warning that a handful of A-levels followed by three years at university is not the only path to a good career and that percpetions need to be changed.

More "learn as you earn" training is urgently needed says the report and in order to achieve this barriers between higher education and industry need to be removed.

Another problem identified by the CBI is a 40% drop in part-time undergraduate applicants over the last 3-4 years.

Looking at specific issues with the current university education system, the CBI has identified a number of particular problems that need addressing:

  • Not enough courses with business links
  • "Patchy" understanding of student finance
  • Poor careers advice

The business group believes that a vocational UCAS style system could help to bridge the gap and that "sandwich" courses or part-time degrees, backed by employers, could be a solution. Gaining practical work experience or study support would be beneficial says the CBI.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s Policy Director, said of the issue:

“UCAS is a single information point for all young people looking to apply to university – as well as a direct application route. But there is no equivalent of similar standing for people wanting alternative vocational and technical schemes. We need to end this if we want to create real parity of esteem between the different routes young people take to get higher skills.”

On a broader note, Ms Hall added:

“The UK needs to vastly increase the stock of workers with higher-level skills to drive long-term growth and stop us falling behind our competitors.”

“Universities must be much more innovative to take advantage of the change in students’ approach. And we need businesses to roll up their sleeves and expand high-quality alternative routes where degrees are not the best option for young people.”

With 60% of young people not going to university, "earn while you learn" schemes need to be utilised far more, says the report. Youngsters also need far clearer advice on their options, the costs and finance.

Businesses also need to do more to commit to server high-quality training schemes, like higher and advanced apprenticeships, work-based trainig and fast track training for school leavers, as well as offering traditional degrees.

For the full details of the report download Tomorrow’s Growth – New Routes to Higher Skills (PDF)

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