New Framework to Boost Access to Skills and Jobs 

Male worker at a factory

The British Chambers of Commerce People and Work report outlines a 10-point plan to boost workforce skills, by supporting people at every stage of their journey through education and employment. 

Among the recommendations to politicians are:

  • An industrial strategy that is fit for purpose.
  • Funding a business support service to help employers identify, plan and invest in workforce skills.
  • More investment to make Careers Information, Education and Guidance a mainstream priority for school leaders.
  • Recognition of employers who invest in workplace training, through the tax and procurement systems, and a new skills investment kitemark.
  • Boost in-work progression through better access to apprenticeships and learning pathways and by reducing barriers to work.
  • Reduce the burden and costs on employers who need to access the immigration system for global talent.

The ‘People and Work’ report is being published at an event hosted by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, taking place on Wednesday 7th February at the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

It is the second of five policy documents being published by the BCC’s new Business Council as part of the ‘Future of Economy’ project. The report draws on expertise from businesses of all sizes and sectors, academia and think-tanks.

It identifies that ‘the UK’s labour market is at a crossroads’, with vacancies well above pre-pandemic levels, sitting at around one million, and skills shortages still hampering growth. Looking ahead it says, ‘the workplace is changing, and so are the skills required to navigate it’.

The role of Government is crucial in tackling the skills crisis and the report makes clear ‘business needs an industrial strategy that is fit for purpose’.

It also calls for better skills planning at a national, local, employer and individual level, including longer term investment in Local Skills Improvement Plans. It says ‘short-term policies’ from a national level are holding regions back.

It outlines how more investment in high quality impartial careers education will ‘overcome cultural stereotypes, increase diversity and improve opportunities’. It should be a ‘mainstream priority for school leaders, embedded in every part of the curriculum’.

The People and Work group acknowledge the crucial role of apprenticeships in tackling skills shortages and creating opportunities for individuals. Calling for reforms to the system, the report says while the apprenticeship levy ‘has increased funding and helped improve quality’, levy paying employers often struggle with the inflexibility of the levy, ‘finding it more akin to a tax’.

To support businesses and economic growth when employers have done all they can to recruit and train locally, the report calls for an ‘effective immigration system’, while ‘addressing systemic skills shortages across the domestic labour market’.

The report concludes, ‘as increased digitisation, automation and greener policies change our workplaces, government and employers need do to more to help individuals overcome barriers, gain a better balance of academic and technical skills, a hunger for lifelong learning and more personal resilience and flexibility’.

Martha Lane Fox, President of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the Business Council said:

“Attracting and retaining people with the right skills is crucial for business. But far too many firms are currently struggling to do that. At the British Chambers of Commerce, we hear directly how this is damaging firms’ ability to meet order books, take on new work and operate profitably. It’s also impacting on the workload and morale of staff.

“We face a huge challenge in the workforce. We need to focus on recruitment, retaining and retraining. This report sets out a holistic approach that is extremely action-oriented.

“A long-term industrial strategy from Government needs to be underpinned by changes to local skills provision, a more flexible apprenticeship levy, better careers education and an immigration system that works for business.”

Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, Chair of the ‘People and Work Challenge Group’ said:

“To grow our economy we need more skilled, engaged and motivated people to contribute to the workforce.

“The barriers that block people’s access to great and rewarding jobs are also the barriers to economic growth. Our report clearly shows how those barriers can be overcome. Businesses must be able to harness the skills, creativity and potential of everyone who wants to work.

“Over the past few months, it has been a privilege to lead discussions between businesses, stakeholders and Chamber representatives on these important issues.

“We now urge all politicians to use our recommendations as a blueprint for boosting skills and putting the economy on a strong footing for the many opportunities ahead.”

Rt Hon Baroness Nicky Morgan, Former Education Secretary said:

“If we get education and skills right – people and business flourish. It enables us all to play our part in a thriving economy. This report from the BCC powerfully highlights the role both government and employers have, in supporting people on their learning and work journeys.

“It comes at a crucial time, as companies are crying out for more people to join the workforce with the right skills. We need to urgently break down the barriers that prevent people from achieving their full potential in the workplace.

“The UK is one of the largest and most innovative economies in the world. But that will only continue if education and skills remain a top priority for policymakers. This report is an excellent blueprint to show how business and Government can work together to deal with the current challenges and future opportunities. “

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