Professionalise careers guidance, and four other ways to bridge the skills gapby Jon Bernstein / June 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
Lee Rowley is Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire and a self-described “interested but non-expert” observer of the debate on the impact of education, skills and training on the country’s economic and social wellbeing. He has a plea to those who have more specialist knowledge. “I’m not sure where we are going,” he told fellow attendees at a recent Prospect roundtable. “And until I know where we are going, I don’t know how to prepare my constituents.”
It’s a plea that’s easy to articulate but less easy to answer.
Rowley describes his constituency as post-industrial. It lost its mining industry three decades ago and has subsequently filled the gap with jobs in logistics and engineering— becoming a commuter town in the process, feeding Sheffield and elsewhere. He believes it will still be a commuter town in 20 years and that manufacturing will continue to be in demand—albeit only at the high end—but he is less sure about the longevity of logistics as a source of employment. “I don’t know what the skills exposure is,” he continued. “So, what do I tell my constituents about how they prepare [so we] don’t fall over like we did 30 years ago?”
His words were reflected by Joanne Hannant, group head of recruitment at the Association of British Ports (ABP). They face a skills and recruitment challenge that will be familiar across the economy. As a result, they have turned to mainland Europe in order to recruit senior business leaders. Why? Because the difference in candidate capability is “stratospheric,” said Hannant. She believes the disparity is down, in part, to a lack of investment in training but also a symptom of disjointed strategic thinking. She asked: “Who owns the overall strategy? How do you get all the component parties working together in a more collaborative way?”
To answer the questions posed above, it’s first useful to understand the underlying obstacles that face anyone looking to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, describes “twin forces” of big global economic changes—including emerging economies, automation and other technology advances, and changes in trading patterns such as Brexit—and of demographic change—an aging population working longer with caring responsibilities both for their children and their parents.
A failure to address…