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News: ‘Urgent action’ needed to tackle skills challenges, warns UKCES

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15th Jul 2014
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Three broken ‘rungs’ on the employment ladder must be fixed if UK jobs and skills are to be improved, a new report has found.

Research carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has found that “urgent action” is needed to ensure the lack of jobs and skills doesn’t impact on the UK’s economic recovery.

The report identified three skills challenges that could be threatening UK growth and must be overcome if the UK is to have a prolonged and balanced recovery.

First, on the bottom rung of the ladder, there are young people struggling to secure their first job and find valuable work experience opportunities, with the report claiming that the UK "stands out" in Europe as having a combination of relatively low unemployment with relatively high youth unemployment.

Second, on the middle rung, the report noted that the jobs market is “increasingly hour-glass shaped”, with less opportunities for those in low-skilled jobs to progress and less talent to choose from for those recruiting for high-skilled jobs.

Third, on the top rung, there is a "mismatch" between rising skills shortages and underemployed talent, which can hinder productivity and growth.

The UKCES has therefore called for high-quality work-based alternatives to traditional higher and further education pathways; quality jobs backed by robust vocational pathways; and better connections between education and the workplace.

UKCES chief executive Michael Davis warned that there is still some way to go before the UK can demonstrate that economic growth is robust and sustainable, but noted a "welcome recognition that this includes developing and using the skills of the workforce to power innovation, creativity and competitiveness".

Douglas McCormick, UKCES commissioner, added: “The UK has made very significant progress in tackling skills challenges, particularly around apprenticeships. But we must go further.

“By acting now to tackle these problems in a collaborative way we can ensure workers and employees alike reap the benefits of economic upturn swiftly - making certain that today’s underlying issues do not become tomorrow’s insurmountable challenges.”

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