From education to employment

Government delivering skills reform to prevent businesses from “driving with the handbrake on”

  • Major British and international companies including Amazon, Virgin Atlantic, Google, BP, Travis Perkins, BAE Systems, Thames Water and Greene King attend government skills conference
  • Education Secretary, Chancellor and Business and Trade Secretary to engage employers in government skills agenda and understand their needs
  • Over one million UK job vacancies in May 2023 partly due to skills shortages which government is working to address through high quality apprenticeships, new T Levels and more technical training opportunities

The government’s Skills for Growth conference takes place today (22 June), hosting some of the biggest British and international companies to discuss how we can create a workforce fit for the future and address the urgent recruitment needs of businesses.

The Education Secretary Gillian Keegan will speak at the event, alongside Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, Skills Minister Robert Halfon and Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake alongside the government’s independent skills policy adviser, Sir Michael Barber.

Among the major employers attending to discuss the future of skills are Google and Amazon, as well as BP, BAE Systems, Virgin Atlantic, Thames Water, Greene King and Travis Perkins.

In May 2023, there were 1,051,000 job vacancies in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. In 2019, 24 per cent of vacancies were the result of skills shortages.

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said:

“I know from my years in business that organisations drive innovation and create opportunities, but without skilled workers, it often feels like you’re driving with the handbrake on.

“The Government is investing in building future skills for growth and calling on businesses to work with us, so that together we can build the workforce of tomorrow.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said:

“While unemployment is at near record lows, we still have some 1 million job vacancies in the UK. Getting businesses the skilled workers they need will not only grow the economy, but help cut inflation too.

“Today’s conference will bring together some of the biggest businesses in Britain and help us make sure our workforce has the skills for the future.”

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said:

“Successful companies need skilled workforces and as the Business and Trade Secretary I want to listen to the needs of business to ensure that the skills system delivers for them, creates even more highly skilled jobs and grows the economy.

“This conference is vital to show how government can support business to build our skills base and ensure we have the right workforce for the jobs of the future.”

In addition to the conference, the government is urging employers to hire more apprentices, especially younger workers, and to invest more in training and upskilling their workforce. We are also highlighting the wide range of government-backed courses and support which is available, including Skills Bootcamps and Free Courses for Jobs as well as £2.7 billion of additional funding to support businesses to take on more apprentices and the ongoing rollout of T Levels.

In all, over 200 delegates are due to attend, representing a huge range of different sectors, from engineering and aerospace, to digital technology, retail and managing the environment.

They will meet many people benefiting from government skills programmes, including apprentices, T Level students people taking Higher Technical Qualifications and participants in Skills Bootcamps, discussing their experiences.

The event is also being delivered in partnership with World Skills UK, who organise the participation of skilled UK professionals in the world’s largest competitive skills showcase. Previous winners of World Skills events will also be present to discuss their experiences.

The critical mass of expertise assembled at the Business Connect – Skills for Growth conference will inspire business leaders and help to grow the UK economy, creating jobs, prosperity and opportunity for people regardless of their background whilst plugging critical skills gaps which many businesses face.

Google Senior Director and MD for Technology, Media, Telecoms & Apps,David Black, said:

“Digital skills are critical for boosting productivity, unlocking economic opportunities and enabling tech-led growth for every corner of the UK. That’s why we have visited more than 500 locations across the country and trained over 1 million Brits with skills that they’ve gone on to use to grow their businesses and further their careers. We’re delighted to be working with the Government to share our expertise and to help teach the skills needed to address the UK’s skills gap.”

Chief Operating Officer, BAE Systems Air sector Ian Muldowney said:

“As a former apprentice and now an industry leader, I can attest to how crucial apprenticeships are to BAE Systems and our wider supply chain. They ensure the next-generation of skills and ingenuity are maintained through a pipeline of talent which enhances our programmes, strengthens our workforce and supports UK sovereign capabilities.”

CEO of Travis Perkins plc and Construction Leadership Council Industry Sponsor for People & Skills Nick Roberts said:

“Today’s conference brings together senior Ministers from Government and Industry Leaders to address one of the biggest challenges facing the UK; the skills gap. Construction makes a significant contribution to the UK’s economy (just under 9% GDP), so addressing this and developing a more diverse and skilled workforce is vital.

“The Construction Leadership Council has set out a clear plan for how to tackle these challenges by creating more entry routes for high-skilled, well-paid jobs, encouraging businesses to invest in their workforce and to adopt modern methods of construction, particularly focused on the transition to net zero. Working in partnership with the Government is paramount, if we are to deliver this plan and create a built environment that we can all be proud of.”

Elizabeth Anderson, Interim CEO at Digital Poverty Alliance commented:

“It is always great to see the government get behind initiatives that support equipping our nation with the skills they need to succeed. While many of us have the privilege of access to technology and skills in everyday life, 10 million adults are still lacking essential digital skills and digital exclusion is something many face across the country including lack of access to equipment, resources and skills.

“As we can see, there is still a huge number of job vacancies going unfilled and we must do better as a nation at providing our future workforce with the access to both skills, and resources, to offer the best chance at being successful in recruitment processes, and then, in the workplace.”

Matt Ravenhill, Director, EMEA Corporate Learning at D2L said:

“As indicated by the Chancellor’s comments, there is currently a massive push to upskill the workforce and the demand for training programmes and opportunities will likely grow in the coming months. There will need to be a serious cultural change – the way in which we value, deliver and measure learning will need to be reviewed, and there needs to be further collaboration between government, education and enterprise. All have a joint responsibility to help prepare individuals for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“As the government encourages businesses to take on more apprentices and make apprenticeships workable, it’s important that businesses look at ways that they can ensure apprenticeships are a success. In order to attract and retain potential talent, businesses need to shift away from the traditional mode of learning. The modern-day workforce wants to use and hone their digital skills, and will assume that employers will recognise this and have tools in place that will enable them to make full use of their expertise. It’s therefore key that businesses are exploiting technologies available that can help accommodate and advance the future generation of workers’ skills now.

“Bridging the skills gap and addressing the recruitment shortage will be no easy feat. The future economy will not only be about developing skills, but ultimately, about changing attitudes, culture and behaviour. Employees must be able to re-enter the education system and attain new skills periodically. Additionally, businesses need to be committed to alternative learning pathways, such as apprenticeships and T-Levels, to ensure students are better prepared to enter the job market. By working together, they can ensure that desirable skills are embedded across all courses and schemes. Only then can we tackle this crisis and propel our economic recovery. Investing in talent now, will pay its dividends in the future.”

Additional information

  • The Skills for Growth conference will take place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster and is part of the Government’s Business Connect initiative.

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