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Does Boris Johnson have the right plan to ‘skill up’ the UK workforce? 

At the end of September the Financial Times published an article that explored whether or not the Prime Minister had the right plan to ‘skill up’ the UK workforce. 

In short, I do not believe that Boris Johnson has the right plan in place to address the skills shortage in the UK.   This is a topic I have been passionate about for many years, and Professional Training Solutions exists to address this.   The lack of knowledge and skills we are missing in industries across the UK has become evident in the last few months.   This has been triggered by Brexit and compounded during the pandemic.  However, the issue has been around for a very long time.   The government’s failure to plan for the future skills needs of the economy has resulted in situations like the chaos caused by the UK’s lack of trained HGV drivers, and many other sectors are following suit.  

The government periodically makes changes to the education sector, but on the ground this feels like it is often done without thought or long-term planning, and often without the learner at the heart of the decision.  Ultimately, the new initiatives do little to respond to the skills shortage we are facing in the UK, instead they replace like for like, or untested with the tried and tested.   A perfect example of this is the rolling out of T-levels and the phasing out of BTECs. 

The traditional university route steeped in history and tradition, is not preparing young people with the necessary skills or job readiness that the current economy requirements.   Added to this careers advice for students leaving secondary education is lacking, with high achievers continually steered towards university and the less academic towards apprenticeships.   Yet with better understanding and promotion of apprenticeships, more young people would understand the career opportunities that an apprenticeship could offer them, even up to degree level apprenticeships.  

With an aging population it won’t just be petrol shortages the nation faces, but a shortage of staff willing and/or able to look after our elderly and most vulnerable.   For example, funding for Health and Social Care Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships are lower than that of a the same level customer service, business admin and hospitality member apprenticeships.   Jobs in health and social care are often minimum wage, come with little recognition, and witness a huge turnover of staff – yet they are some of the most challenging and mentally draining jobs our society has to offer.   The government refuses to acknowledge and reward these individuals with the appropriate funding and training required, yet these are the very jobs our society urgently needs. 

What I would like to see is our government propose a long term plan that puts all learners at the heart of initiatives, promotes and encourages diversity and awareness, while supporting businesses to offer learning outside of traditional institutions like universities or colleges.

by Jackie Denyer, MD and Founder, Professional Training Solutions