The case for a single UK workforce resilience and labour market strategy is overwhelming. We need collective thinking in the round, urgently, to excel in a world outside the European Union.
Although the pivotal workers issues and policies sit within central government’s Department for Work and Pensions, Home Office and Treasury, actual workforce resilience and UK labour market sustainability sit alone under the banner of education and skills, a devolved matter.
The policy makers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have differing and not infrequently opposing views, with each party diligently responsible for their piece of the puzzle, but with no duty to ensure how, or even if, one piece connects to the next. No one body provides stewardship to ensure the central and increasingly devolved pieces do come together, or that a picture for the lid of the jigsaw box even exists for everyone to work to. England is a case in point. The new Apprenticeship Levy mandates a UK-wide hypothecated tax on qualifying employers from all four nations, yet only enables those in England to use the system the policy was built around, in the form of the ambitious Trailblazer Apprenticeships system.
Those who traditionally train the workforce – such as universities, colleges, awarding bodies and training providers, who have served their customers’ needs for decades – must redesign their entire business model to even access funding in the new world.
“The policymakers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have differing and not infrequently opposing views, with each party diligently responsible for their piece of the puzzle, but with no duty to ensure how, or even if, one piece connects to the next”
Market entrants must also decide which part of the apprenticeship journey they will now place their money on. It can’t be the whole journey and the market engage ment rules are yet to be fully written. All four nations have been affected by this Westminster policy – some positively, some less so.
Shortly we will see the fledging of the new T Levels, which will operate in a way that is almost the exact opposite of the apprenticeship rules – about 80 per cent of the student’s time in the classroom and 20 per cent in on-the-job training. The idea looks excellent, but the delivery is yet to come.
Meanwhile, the CBI and TUC have been tasked with enabling the delivery of the Conservative manifesto pledge to implement a national retraining scheme. The chancellor, education secretary and exchequer secretary are busily engaged in staying a few steps ahead of a fast-approaching tide of tens.,of thousands of white and blue collar workers being made redundant from our high streets and factories, as we read almost daily in what are rapidly becoming disturbing media headlines. They stand on a legacy rock of historic high employment and low unemployment, facing economic and labour market waves that may reach their waists around the time of the next election.
Add to this rapidly changing skills roles for new local mayors, local enterprise partnerships, skills advisory panels, career enterprise partnership, local authorities, sector skills bodies – and the wholesale change under way across the devolved nations – and we have a UK boat packed full of powerful, talented rowers, but with no one coxswain appointed to set a course or direct the rhythm of the strokes.
Nick Ellins, chief executive, Energy & Utility Skills
Article first published in Utility Week, 6-12th July. Article reproduced with the kind permission of Utility Week. To view the original article please visit >https://utilityweek.co.uk/category/policy-regulation/