Today’s Autumn Statement promises a £3.8B spending package on skills as part of the government’s “skills revolution” – a move aligned to its levelling up agenda, with the chancellor of the Exchequer stating: “Strengthening the skills of our people, the country’s greatest asset. That’s a real plan for growth.
“Higher skills lead to higher regional productivity.
“And higher productivity leads to higher wages.
“With 80% of the UK’s 2030 workforce already in work, our future success depends not just on the schooling we give our children but the lifelong learning we offer to adults.”
It is certainly laudable to see both major spending on skills and a concerted focus on their value, and while industry response was mixed – years of underfunding will likely require considerably more investment – receiving this sum given the economic challenges wrought by Covid, is good news.
The Autumn Statement comes just a few days before COP26 an event that will also bring into sharp focus the need for a workforce sufficiently skilled to enable manufacturing to transition successfully to meet Net Zero targets. This doesn’t – and can’t – mean an immediate shift to “green”; it means keeping pace with industry: what’s needed now, what will be needed, and how do we contribute to lifelong careers.
Working collaboratively is going to be fundamental to achieving this. As identified recently by Make UK in their report Unlocking the Skills Needed for a Digital and Green Future, industry, government, and education and training providers need to come together in order to understand skills requirements and reflect this in course content.
It is clear we have the government’s attention, and we are acutely aware of the Net Zero obligations placed on industry; but as was made clear by Ann Watson, CEO of Enginuity in her COP26 manifesto, now is the time to chart a roadmap to ensure the right delivery of skills, at the right time.