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England’s skills puzzle: Piecing together further education training and employment

This report from the Skills Commission calls on the UK government to give skills and lifelong learning renewed attention through devolution and a new Productivity Board. The report follows a 12-month inquiry, conducted over 2019 by Policy Connect and the Learning and Work Institute. The Commission found that employers are struggling to engage in an overly centralised skills system. Unlike other developed countries, England lacks channels to engage employers on a collective basis and has few local levers to adjust provision to meet local needs. Furthermore, a restricted and volatile funding system that promotes competition over collaboration is limiting the ability of colleges and training providers to respond effectively to local employers at a time when retraining and upskilling is becoming more important than ever. To address this the Commission recommends: (1) a framework for skills and lifelong learning with medium and long-term targets to be monitored by the Government’s new Skills and Productivity board, which should be placed on a statutory footing and report to Parliament bi-annually like the Climate Change Commission; (2) further devolution of adult skills budgets, supported by stronger labour market and sectoral intelligence; (3) funding reform to incentives colleges and training providers to collaborate around meeting local learning and skills needs; (4) a national campaign to support the recruitment and retention of teaching staff in FE; and (5) pilots of personal learning accounts to support opportunities for retraining and upskilling as the population lives and works for longer.