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Vocational education and apprenticeship leaders team up to urge for creation of a national upskilling system

Historic collaboration between NOCN and City & Guilds to be unveiled at Skills and Employability Summit

Global skills development leader, City & Guilds has partnered with NOCN, one of the UK’s large awarding and assessment organisations, to co-author a major report, Close the Gap – Proposing a map for UK Technical & Skills Education to 2024 and beyond.

It will be launched by the education charity’s managing director, Graham Hasting-Evans, at the Skills and Employability Summit 2019, on the 26th September, in London.

The landmark publication is an uncompromising demand to build the skills and knowledge the UK will need in the very near future – vital weapons that, currently, it is not on track to have in its armoury.

Based on extensive research reviews by the vocational training and apprenticeship leaders, the report calls on government, employers and the education and learning sector to address decisively the lingering ‘productivity puzzle’, in the face of unprecedented global competitiveness and technological advances.

It predicts that, over the next five to 10 years, the UK’s stubbornly persistent skills gap will worsen, with a chronic shortage of available qualified personnel for the growing number of professional, scientific and technical jobs that a vibrant, dynamic economy will need. This it calls the ‘Missing Middle’.

Also forecast is a huge over-supply of people with few or no skills and qualifications – the ‘Low Skills Bottom’ and higher level achievements in sectors and roles that may not be required by the labour market.

It all adds up to a sharply declining national competitiveness, as mid/high-level roles go unfilled and vast numbers of British people lead unfulfilled lives or continue to experience in-work poverty. Meanwhile, more agile rival nations with skilled-up labour pools will steam ahead.

City & Guilds and NOCN recommend building on, not scrapping, recent government reforms to establish a single, simple, integrated and economy-led technical and skills development scheme – a responsive ‘TVET system’, as they are known internationally.

It is the first time that the two organisations, which could be regarded as competing bodies, have worked together on such a high-level review. This denotes the vital importance of the issues at play, according to Graham Hasting-Evans.

Graham said: “The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, driven by accelerating AI and digital technologies, will create an era when rapid change will be the only constant and we are simply not ready enough for it to take competitive advantage.

“NOCN and City & Guilds are hugely concerned that the country faces seismic shifts of displaced employment, underemployment and rising inequality as a result – with potentially ruinous consequences for the economy, government spending and social cohesion.”

Co-author, City & Guilds policy director, Patrick Craven, added:

“UK plc must ‘Close the Gap’ urgently to lessen the dangers of such a skills mismatch. To do so, we need to raise the skill levels of around three to four million in the UK workforce, as well as increase and better align the skills of young people emerging from our school systems.

 “This makes accessible education, learning and training for everyone absolutely paramount – and an all-embracing TVET system will ensure this is delivered, for the economic stability and sustainable, inclusive growth that must follow.”

The Close the Gap report is further bolstered by a ‘roadmap’ document. The abstract provides a succinct, ‘headline’ explanation of how its recommendations can be achieved.

Lewis Cooper, Director of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, said: “Today’s report is absolutely right in saying we need a vision for skills. The roadmap presented in this report is an important contribution to the discussion about the future of the English skills system.”

Graham Hasting-Evans concluded:

“We are very pleased to be presenting our report at the Skills and Employability Summit and sharing the findings about how the country can reskill, close the gap on our competitors and remain a world leading force for the 21st century.”

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