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UK Undervalues Vocational Skills


The UK is placing less importance on vocational skills than other European countries, and its affecting our competitiveness, according to research from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

The study revealed that 57% of people in the UK thought vocational skills were most important for their career, compared to three quarters (76%) of people in France, around two-thirds of people in Germany and Sweden (67% and 64% respectively) and 60% in Italy.

The LSC's research, revealed at its Skills Summit earlier this week, showed that recognition of the value of vocational skills increases with age, suggesting that those those in the workplace have first-hand experience of the fact that academic qualifications alone do not automatically translate into competency in the work place.

At 16-24 just 45% of respondents recognised vocational skills as most important, that increased to 65% for those aged 25-34 and 73% for those between the ages of 35-44.

The LSC warned that the failure to understand the value of vocational skills at an early age meant that many young people could enter the workplace ill-equipped with the crucial skills needed for the job.

Recent research by the Corporation of London revealed that many entry level candidates in the City were lacking basic requirements in English and maths, as well as soft skills such as confidence, team work and presentation skills.[1] Further studies show that the number of 17-year-olds in education and training in Britain is lower than other countries in the EU.[2]

The research also showed that UK employers are failing to capitalise on the positive economic conditions they are currently enjoying. While the importance they are attaching to vocational skills is consistent with their European counterparts, the favourable economic environment - low inflation and unemployment, a growth in the workforce and rising GDP - makes it the most advantageous country in Europe for employers to invest in workforce skills. The LSC said that failure to invest in skills could be putting their businesses' and the nation's long term prosperity at risk.

Furthermore, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research 20% of the productivity gap between the UK and Germany is a result of a poorly skilled workforce, making it an economic imperative for UK employers to increase their investment in skills to close this gap.

Ian Smith, Senior Vice President and Managing Director at Oracle UK, Ireland and South Africa, who spoke at the Skills Summit 2005 said that the findings held a stark message to employers.

"To be competitive in today's global economy means that companies have to have a multi-skilled workforce, who can develop unique, high value products and services," he said.
"For those companies in this survey not capitalising on the benefits of vocational skills, I would encourage them to take the opportunities available through many of the educational bodies here in the UK - it is without doubt critical to the future success of UK business."

[1]Skills in the City: Entry Level Opportunities in the Financial & Business Services Sector
[2]According to the European Union Labour Force Survey


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