The country’s training system needs a “root and branch reform” to help businesses attract skilled workers and boost productivity, a new report is urging.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its research over the past 18 months, involving hundreds of companies, colleges, universities and training providers, had revealed a series of “obstacles” for employers in using the current system.
The report recommended more help for smaller firms, better flexible learning for people in work, and a greater say for businesses on what skills training is needed.
Jane Boardman, who chaired a commission set up by the BCC, said: “The problem of skills shortages has long hampered the UK economy, leaving employers struggling to fill job vacancies and raise productivity.
“The workplace is rapidly becoming more digital and automated, so businesses need more people with the technical skills for these changing jobs.
“But too often, employers cannot access the training they need and, as a result, are spending less and less on training each year.
“The impact of the pandemic has made investing in adult skills more important than ever.”
Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the BCC, said: “For too long, smaller businesses have struggled to navigate the skills system and get what they need, when they need it.
“Now is the time to put employers’ needs first and transform the system for the better.”
Pawel Adrjan, of job site Indeed, which helped with the research, added: “The types of available job opportunities are changing, with construction, manufacturing, software development, health and social care accounting for a greater share of vacancies today than before the pandemic.
“Growing demand for new workers and changes in the mix of available jobs have put adult skills and training back at the top of the labour market policy agenda.”
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “A decade of Conservative cuts has weakened the foundations of our skills system, with training opportunities for adult learners disappearing and skills shortages opening up for businesses.
“Enabling adults to gain new skills, retrain in new industries or to progress at work will be essential to securing our economy.”
A Government spokesman said: “Now more than ever it is vital that people can get the skills they need to get good jobs, and employers can access the skilled workforce they need to thrive.
“That’s exactly why we’re putting employers at the heart of our plans, giving them a central role, working through their representative bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, and hand in glove with colleges so the training on offer meets the needs of local communities.”