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UK skills training needs radical overhaul

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The British economy could find itself facing a period of decline if the skill levels of the workforce do not show marked improvement.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has warned in a new report, Ambition 2020, that millions of British workers need training in cutting edge skills.

According to the report, some ten million employees must upskill if the UK is to remain as one of the eight most productive economies in the world.

At the moment, the country is on track only to meet half that number.

The UKCES argued that more investment should be made in apprenticeships.

It also called for businesses to be given greater encouragement to create highly-skilled jobs.

Chris Humphries, the UKCES chief executive, said: “At the moment, our economy is still world class – quite an achievement for such a small island.

“But we’re living on past glories. Economic success rests on three legs – skills, jobs and productivity – and we are well below average on the first of these. Unless swift and decisive action is taken, we can expect the UK’s economy to begin to slide down the international rankings.”

Sir Mike Rake, chairman of UKCES, added: “In spite of our progress in recent years, other countries are progressing further and faster.

“There is no extra public money available, so what we need to do is encourage a more streamlined system with a ruthless focus on economically valuable skills and the creation of new jobs which put those skills to good use.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business (BIS) said: “Our priorities are to build an internationally competitive skills base and ensure we have a skills system that supports people into work and then to progress – that is why we are already addressing many of the issues raised by UKCES.

“We have already created 50,000 new apprenticeship places, and are bringing in a new integrated careers advice service, as well as asking universities to provide information about employability prospects of the degrees they are studying.”