Madeleine Gabriel, Head of Inclusive Innovation, Nesta

England's #SkillsPuzzle identifies the problems with our skills system and sensibly calls for greater investment in adult learning, devolved responsibility for skills planning and better advice for learners, but it's vital that we also keep an eye to future skills needs, use new tools and technologies to empower learners with data-driven career advice, and give proper support for people to learn.

The Skills Commission’s report, "England’s Skills Puzzle", incisively sums up the problems with our current skills system - it’s too fragmented, too centralised, and hard for employers and individuals to navigate. It’s great to see a strong case being made for far greater investment in adult learning - after all, as the report points out, 80% of those who’ll be working in 2030 are already in the workforce, so focusing almost exclusively on education in childhood and youth will no longer cut it.

Nesta welcomes the report’s recommendations to devolve more responsibility for skills planning, and make provision more responsive to employers’ needs. Local planning could be supported by real-time data on skills demand: Nesta’s work has shown how analysis of job adverts can provide granular data on the types of skills that workers need for different types of occupations. 

While employers’ current needs are important, it’s also essential to keep an eye to the future. Nesta’s research suggests that skills requirements could change significantly over the next 10 years, given the potential impact of big trends like climate transition, automation and population ageing on the labour market. While some occupations are likely to decline (and others likely to grow), for most, the future is uncertain. There is an opportunity here: job redesign coupled with workforce retraining could promote growth - and more fulfilling work - in many occupations. This type of insight should be used by the Skills and Productivity Board.

We also welcome the report’s call for far better information, advice and guidance to support individuals to make good choices about the types of learning they undertake. We want people in all parts of the country to be able to navigate a changing job market with confidence. Again, data can help with this, as part of a stronger advice and guidance system.

We’d like to see the consideration of policies that would make it easier for people to retrain, such as updating the currently restrictive time off work policy and granting the right to financial support to re-train, particularly for those in low-paid and insecure work. It’s also important that learning fits individuals’ needs and circumstances, and there’s a need for more innovation here: for example, Nesta is investing in tools and technologies to improve access to accurate, data-driven career information, advice and guidance, and help motivate and support learners to retrain.

Madeleine Gabriel, Head of Inclusive Innovation, Nesta

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