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Creating a workforce for a prosperous and productive future

This new report from the Commission on Sustainable Learning for Life, Work and a Changing Economy evaluates the potential economic value of having a UK workforce that has benefitted from a well-designed technical and vocational education. After an analysis of existing literature on skill shortages in OECD countries and an impact assessment on UK skill demands, the authors determine that the UK is “lagging behind” because of skill underutilisation and infrequent workplace training. Amongst the 30 OECD countries, the UK is ranked 11th in terms of productivity and 12th in competitiveness. In addition, 51% of UK employees report that their skills are being under-utilised. To tackle this issue, a widespread realisation is needed that competitiveness in the economy will be determined more by how we develop human skills than the ownership of dwindling natural resources. Employers, training providers and exam bodies need to work together to create an adaptive working environment that provides employees with continuous learning opportunities. The commission estimates that the UK could see an improvement of £108bn in GDP over the next ten years if the country can achieve a top quartile position in low-level skills (below upper secondary education), intermediate (upper secondary) and high skills (tertiary). In the OECD’s 2016 ranking of countries by adult education level, the UK ranked below average for low skills and 29th out of 36 for intermediate skills.