The chief executive of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation recently took to the main stage at the Edge Annual Lecture 2015 to weigh in on the issue of under-employment that is plaguing the UK.
Keynote speaker Nicholas Wyman addressed the conference which took place on Tuesday 13th October at Glaziers Hall, London; raising his concerns about the ‘skills gap’ that many parts of the English-speaking world currently faces.
“In the second quarter of 2015, 1.85 million people in the UK were out of work. Nearly half – 47 per cent – were aged 18-24,” Mr Wyman said. “Meanwhile, employers reported more than 730,000 job vacancies.”
Mr Wyman’s key phrase “people without jobs and jobs without people” summed up the skills gap conundrum: at a time of growing skills shortages, there are still high levels of youth unemployment and graduate under-employment.
He said this problem is not unique to the UK and that in the US 14 million people are unemployed, at the same time as 3.5 million positions remain vacant. The story is similar in Canada, where 1.3 million people are unemployed while 350,000 positions are unfilled.
“The situation is the result of school leavers not having the right skills and experience employers are looking for,” Mr Wyman said. The skills gap, he explained, is greatest in the “middle skilled” labour category which includes electricians, machinists, and plumbers, among others. He said this problem cannot continue to be overlooked.
“The UK needs to turn its attention to career and technical high schools; foundation degrees; apprenticeship programmes; and work-based training for adults,” he told attendees.
“Investing in skills building is a powerful way to help grow your organisation, and strengthen the local economy.”
He said the UK needs to pay greater attention to technical and vocational education pathways and move away from the “university for all” approach in order to provide school leavers with valued skills for a productive working life.
Mr Wyman provided his recommendations for reform which included: building better collaboration between training providers and industry; determine where the skills gap exists and link results to skills areas in school curriculums; and get students on the job training while they are still at school.