Skills policy reform in England needed to drive economic growth and build a world-class skills system by 2030

15 May 2024

The next Parliament should reform skills policy to help address skills shortages and build a highly skilled workforce capable of boosting productivity and expanding opportunity for all, according to a new report.

Cross-party think tank Policy Connect’s latest report, ‘Skills 2030: Building A World-Class Skills System’, co-chaired by the Rt. Hon Sir John Hayes CBE MP and Barry Sheerman MP, sets out a vision for reforming the skills system in England over the next Parliament, with the goal of building a world-class skills system by 2030. The report was compiled following an inquiry by the Skills Commission – among contributors was Professor Keith McLay, Provost (Learning and Teaching) at the University of Derby.

Since the Skills Commission’s last inquiry in 2020, the Government has taken positive steps towards improving the skills system in England, with the introduction of Local Skills Improvement Plans, the promotion of apprenticeships, and the announcement of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement. 

However, as the Skills 2030 report makes clear, England does not yet have the world-class skills system that it needs to address the challenging social and economic circumstances that the country faces. 

Skills 2030 highlights the importance of skills policy being a top priority for whichever party or parties form the next government. The inquiry heard from stakeholders across the sector about the vital importance of reforms to address challenges in further education, falling employer investment in skills, and persistent barriers facing both young and adult learners. 

The report presents a holistic and wide-ranging vision to transform the skills system and ensure that it can adapt and respond to changing workforce needs in the years ahead. It sets out 11 recommendations to deliver meaningful and lasting improvements, covering the following important themes:

Professor McLay said:

“I am delighted to have contributed to this important report, which emphasises how crucial it is to develop a holistic approach to skills development. The recommendations of the report align closely with the University of Derby’s ethos of raising aspirations and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to develop their skills and talents, regardless of background. Forging stronger links between industry and education is critical to reforming England’s skills system and preparing us all to meet the challenges of our fast-changing world.”

Rt. Hon Sir John Hayes CBE MP, Inquiry Co-Chair, said:

“As Co-Chair of the Skills Commission, I am pleased that this report sets out a powerful case for change, with an ambitious and detailed roadmap for building on the Government’s recent progress in implementing reforms to the skills system. Stakeholders from across the sector have contributed to our inquiry, demonstrating that despite this progress, policymakers have yet to fully articulate a compelling vision that puts the system on a path towards leading the world. 

Working in partnership with the sector to deliver the recommendations outlined in Skills 2030, I am convinced that the next Parliament can build a skills system that increases productivity, supports social mobility, and empowers individuals to upskill and reskill throughout their lives. I will continue to work with colleagues from across Parliament to build the world-class skills system that our country needs.”

The report is sponsored by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), Jisc, and the University of Derby.

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