From education to employment

Work in Progress: Interim report of the Commission on the Future of Employment Support

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Today sees the publication of the interim report of the Commission on the Future of Employment Support, which is working to develop evidence-led proposals for reform of our system of employment support and services.

The report presents findings from the first six months of the Commission’s work, comprising a Call for Evidence that received around one hundred responses; twenty consultation events, workshops and focus groups; and an extensive review of the literature around ‘what works’ in employment support. In all, over 200 individuals and organisations have participated in this first phase of work, making this the largest consultation on our system of employment support and services in at least a generation. Thank you to everyone who has given their time and expertise over the last few months.

The Commission is being managed by IES in partnership with abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, and is being overseen by ten Commissioners with a range of backgrounds and expertise. You can find out more about the Commission, its work and members here.

The report sets out many positive examples of effective employment support, employer engagement and partnership working. However, it also found a range of evidence that our approach needs major reform if it is to meet the challenges and opportunities that we will face from demographic, economic and technological changes. In particular, it finds that our system:

  • Is too narrow in its focus, with the UK having the least well-used employment service in Europe (with four times as many jobseekers using equivalent services in France and Germany, for example)
  • Overly emphasises entry to ‘any job’ rather than the right job, the quantity of jobsearch rather than its quality, and monitoring compliance rather than empowering jobseekers
  • Often has a limited offer for employers, focused on vacancy gathering and job applications, with little joining up with wider business support (especially in England)
  • Struggles to co-ordinate effectively across services, particularly with skills and careers support, and to deliver employment support in different settings
  • Appears to have become locked in a cycle of short-term funding, contracts and initiatives – making it hard to plan and invest for the future

These issues are particularly important now because new analysis set out in the report shows that employment growth is set to slow markedly in the coming years. Over the first two decades of this century, employment grew by on average 300,000 a year. However over the next two decades, as a result of our ageing population, falling birth rates and lower labour market migration, employment will grow at less than half this rate, at just over 100,000 a year. This means that governments and employers will no longer be able to rely on labour supply to support higher economic growth. We are going to need to do far more both to raise participation in work and to to be more productive in work.

The interim report was covered in depth in today’s Financial Times, as well as in comment pieces in The Telegraph and Times over the last couple of weeks.

In the next phase of work, the Commission will be developing options for reform and co-design these with service users and stakeholders. We’ll be sending out more details on how to get involved in this on our mailing list.

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