Today we have published our 2015 Skills Manifesto: A More Productive and Flexible Workforce. Join the discussion on Twitter @EEF_Economists #EEFSkills2015
A more productive and flexible workforce
New technology, manufacturing processes and process development requires ever-increasing skills levels from both the current and the future manufacturing labour force. This in turn puts ever-increasing demands on education and training institutions, which must work hand-in-hand with business to ensure an adequate supply of these skills today and in the future.
UK manufacturers are currently being hindered by decisions taken over past decades, which have eroded the pipeline of talent into the industry. This must not be our future. Business can and will do more to support continuous improvements in the skills of the UK's current and future workforce, but this will only bring real change if government investment and reforms both facilitate the work of employers and support them in achieving their aims.
Targets and ambitions
By setting goals - and measuring performance against them - government departments can have confident that policy choices and spending decisions are delivering the best outcomes for manufacturers.
In our Skills Manifesto we have established five key ambitions to be achieved by 2020 that will lead to improvements in manufacturers ability to access skilled employees and meet the skills demand of the industry. These are:
- For three-quarters of employment in the UK to be classified as medium or high skilled (as advocated in EEF's Manifesto: Priorities for Government)
- To reduce the number of hard-to-fill-vacancies in manufacturing to 25%
- To increase the number of UK engineering graduates by 25%
- To increase the number of advanced and higher engineering and manufacturing apprenticeship achievements by 25%
- For the proportion of maths and science teachers at school holding at least a post-A level qualification in their subject to increase to 90%
Priority areas and key recommendations
There is enormous potential to secure competitiveness gains for business as better employment prospects and higher living standards for individuals if government and manufacturers collectively make profess on the skills agenda in the next Parliament. A future government should therefore priorities:
1. Sustained growth in the talent pipeline for manufacturing
- Careers inspiration should be introduced in primary school and an industry-led approach to careers provision must be developed in secondary school. From the ages 15/16, young people must have access to an independent careers adviser.
- More STEM specialists must be recruited in schools and STEM teachers should spend time in industry as part of their continuous professional development to better understand the practical application of what they are teaching.
- The number of work-based activities available at Key Stage 4 and 5 should increase and the next government should review the impact of removing compulsory work experience at Key Stage 4.
- There should be an increased number of opportunities for international students graduating from UK universities to stay in the UK in order to seek employment upon completing their studies.
- There needs to be a reduction in the cost and complexity for businesses engaging in the UK's migration system, with a particular focus on SMEs.
2. Investment in the national skills infrastructure must be levered to deliver the greatest economic benefit
- A 'voucher' model should be adopted to give employers control of apprenticeship funding - it must be simple and sustainable.
- Universities must have the capacity and capital to supply places for STEM applicants, including sufficient funding to cover teaching infrastructure and STEM specialist staff.
- The Employer Ownership of Skills initiative should continue, but become more accessible to SMEs, both through an awareness-raising campaign and the introduction of new thresholds and criteria that are more realistic for small firms.
3. Employers must play a greater role in driving forward the skills agenda
- New innovations in education that have a clear industry focus such as University Technical Colleges and the new National Colleges should be given time to become embedded in the system.
- Employers must control the creation, maintenance and governance of apprenticeship standards, and this is best achieved through the continuation and roll-out of Trailblazers.
- An existing portal such as UCAS or NAS should be expanded to include information for employers on the engagement with universities and recruitment of graduates.
- Further work should be undertaken to explore how successful partnerships between universities and industry have been formed to determine how such models can be rolled out.