William Eichler 16 January 2020

Council chiefs call for devolution of skills funding

Six million people in England risk being without a job or in work they are over-qualified for by 2030, council chiefs have warned.

A new report commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that by 2030 there could be 5.1 million low-skilled people chasing 2 million low-skilled jobs.

It also estimates there could be 12.7 million people with intermediate skills chasing 9.5 million jobs and 17.4 million high-skilled jobs with only 14.8 million high-skilled workers.

Written by the Learning and Work Institute (L&W), the report estimates that not meeting the skills needs of employers could lead to a potential loss of £120bn in economic output by the end of the decade.

Under the current skills and employment system, £10.5bn a year is spent by eight Government departments or agencies across 20 different national schemes.

The LGA warns this is creating a ‘confusing, fragmented, untargeted and ineffective system’ and argues that councils are better placed to tackle the skills gaps.

‘Councils are ideally placed to lead efforts to help the Government bring growth and jobs to all parts of the country and ensure everyone is fully equipped with the skills they need to compete for future jobs,’ said Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board.

‘For that to happen, our complex and fragmented national skills system needs to adapt to a changing jobs market.

‘Better local coordination of services would provide better opportunities for young people to increase their skill levels and adults retrain and upskill for future jobs. This is key to driving up productivity, closing local skills gaps and boosting local economies.’

‘Other countries have continued to invest in skills, while progress in England has stalled over the last decade, the result of large cuts in England’s adult education budget which has left us lagging behind other countries and the number of adults improving their skills at a record low,’ said Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute.

‘We now need a decade of investment, in order to boost life chances, economic prosperity and to level up the country.

‘That investment needs to be delivered through a partnership between national and local government, employers and trade unions. The cost of inaction is large and growing: it is time for action and investment in lifelong learning.’

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