Smarter Skills Current
The aim of this project is to understand how the design, delivery and funding of skills policy in the UK can be improved to meet the need for a sustainable economic recovery and to support the government’s vision for a better balanced economy.
Central government attaches enormous importance to skills policy as the driver of everything from economic growth to social justice. Yet whether improving the nation’s skills creates social justice and helps businesses to grow will depend on how employers use people’s skills, whether qualifications provide the skills that match the needs of the labour market, and the extent to which skills policy is co-ordinated with other relevant policy areas.
The UK’s flexible labour market, with high numbers of part-time and temporary jobs, can facilitate entry into work for disadvantaged groups. But reforms have also contributed to a market failure in many sectors, removing incentives for employers to invest in workforce skills and to retain staff. While skills gaps are a problem in some key growth sectors, in many low paid sectors the issue is poor utilisation of skills by employers, and consequently low productivity. As a result a fifth of the UK workforce is low-paid, and millions of people work in low skilled jobs that offer poor opportunities for stability or progression.
IPPR will outline the key challenges and overall vision for skills policy. We will scrutinise the impact of labour market flexibility on workers, skills and productivity and explore how to create career ladders for people in low skilled, low productivity jobs. We will examine what the institutional framework for skills that generates commitment and collective cost-sharing from employers, the state and individuals should look like.
The project is sponsored by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service.
The research is being conducted in two stages.
- In the first stage we will conduct a literature review and desk-based research to bring together the academic arguments on the impact of labour market flexibility on workers, skills and productivity. We will examine current skills policy and practice, identify the role of skills and set out a vision for what skills policy should look like.
- In the second stage we will conduct a number of semi-structured interviews with skills providers, employers and experts in the UK and abroad. We will explore how UK employers can make better use of skills, asking what we can learn from good practice in other European countries. We will also identify strong case studies showing how to create career pathways from low skilled jobs, looking at how to ensure that qualifications deliver real employment and wage returns and case studies of where employers have offered strong progression routes from entry-level jobs.
The project will result in two final papers that will set out a new approach to skills and flexibility in the labour market.
The papers will be launched in autumn 2011 at an event that will bring together experts from academia, government, industry and education to discuss the findings.
Senior Research Fellow