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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Policy brief

Inspiring growth, skills and education surveys

Executive summary

The policy brief shows the results of the CbI Pearson education and skills survey in the United Kingdom. The majority of the businesses that participated in the survey are apprehensive about the skills shortage and lack of core competencies in the job-market. It is especially urgent to respond to this shortage in the sectors that are essential for the rebalancing of the economy. Schools and universities are an essential part of the supply chain to business, one that has the potential to support continuous growth in a competitive globalized market. Meeting the growing skills demand requires improving Business and education sector partnerships, improving core competencies in all schools’ levels and continue on developing and reforming apprenticeships programs.


The emergence from the crisis and the transition toward a knowledge based economy requires adaptation of skills to the continuous evolving of technologies, products, services and markets. Solid economic growth and employment rate have increased over the past years in the UK and are expected to continue to grow. However, there is a raising demand for high skilled workers especially for sectors that are essential to redressing the economy: manufacturing, engineering science and Hi-tech. Alternatively the skills of young graduate are inadequate to the demands of the job markets as they lack core competencies, aptitude and attitude skills along with STEM skills. These shortcomings constitute a challenge to both employers and employees. The survey conducted in spring 2015,

with responses received from more than 300 organizations of different sizes from different sectors and regions in the United Kingdom emphasizes the importance of connecting the universities and schools’ goals with the businesses needs. This includes mainly building numeracy and literacy skills for young people, providing career advices and support that ensure the transition to the workplace, reforming apprenticeship programs and meeting the demand of high skilled workers.

Main findings:

1) Skills shortage and lack of core competencies:

Ensuring a sustainable level of growth in a globalised world requires a quick adaptation to changing industries and changing skills. Over the next three to five years, businesses expect that the demand for people with leadership skills (positive balance of 68%) and other different skills levels (exhibit 1). This demand is strongest in sector that are essential for the redressing of the economy (exhibit 2). Nationally, 55% of employers are not confident of being able to recruit high skilled employees in the future. This shortage is particularly linked to STEM skills. The businesses identified barriers to recruiting STEM skilled Staffs as a lack of general workplace experience (46%), lack of appropriate attitude and aptitude for work (44%), shortage of STEM graduates (40%) and content of qualification not relevant to business needs (40%). Shortcoming in basic skills and competencies- IT, literacy and numeracy-are widespread across different sectors (exhibit 4). This has not improved over the years as in 2009, 40% of companies reported weak literacy and numeracy skills while it increased to 50% in 2015, leading many companies to provide remedial education (1 in 5 businesses). This lack of improvement shows the limits of the education system that should be urgently addressed.

2) Apprenticeship and training providers:

Apprenticeship standards have been introduced by the government and are seen as positive (81%). There has also been a great endorsement of apprenticeship programs in different sectors: manufacturing (76%) professional services (42%). However, there is a need for it to become more demand driven and there are large concerns over bureaucracy and red tape, slow reforms and too much government control. (Exhibit 5). Small firms are less engaged in these programs due to low level of awareness of apprenticeship agencies roles (38%)  i.e Group Training Associations (GTA)  and Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATA) (exhibit 6). Skills investment is on the rise (exhibit 7) and businesses rely on different sources of training private providers (83%), FE college (46%) and university (25%). However, costs are the major source of dissatisfaction for businesses for all the sources ranging from 6% level of satisfaction with universities and 37% for FE college and 40% for Private partners.

3) School-business partnerships:

There is a growing uncertainty over the vocational qualifications and whether those awarded have the skills and knowledge. The majority of businesses value both academic and vocational training and businesses are already engaged with organisations that offer vocational trainings. Connections between businesses and schools or colleges is wide-spread: business and secondary (55%) and FE colleges (53%). The two most common form of support are work experience placement (74%) and career talk and advice (71%). The quality of careers advice is not sufficient for young people to make informed decisions about future careers. (77%). (exhibit 8). This is a continuous pattern from previous years as earlier surveys rated the quality of advice as being inadequate. Awareness of business environment for primary and secondary schools and the basic and core competencies are weak in primary schools. Foreign languages are ranked as useful and important especially for international careers and mobility.

Policy Recommendations:

1) Developing attitudes and attributes and improve core skills in the education system

Developing core skills should start at the beginning of the education cycle. Pupils in primary and secondary schools need to develop better literacy, numeracy and communication skills along other behaviors that would help them to succeed in their work-life such as curiosity and creativity. Alternatively, these skills should be combined with Education institutions could do more to include business related skills and competencies in their courses and to get students ready for the job market. Reforms that have been applied such as the curriculum for excellence in Scotland should be continued and effectively applied while reforms emphasizing these skills in all UK should be adopted. Moreover, Levels 4 and 5 vocational skills should be at the heart of reforms and should be given more emphasis and more importance.

2) Renew growth in apprenticeship programs:

In order to ensure continuous growth, apprenticeship programs need to be tailored and more relevant to business needs. Moreover, a simple system with less bureaucracy and more engagement of employers would increase the efficiency of these programs. Alternatively, young people in schools and universities need to be motivated to participate in apprenticeships placements. Schools should give as much importance to vocational apprenticeships as they do to academic studies. This would be beneficial for all companies’ sizes but especially for the SMEs who have little involvement in the apprenticeship, and want to increase their pool of candidates.

3) Better collaboration between Businesses and Education institutions.

Businesses are aware of the importance of higher educations institutions. An increase in the collaboration between high education institutions i.e. universities and businesses is vital to businesses in the fast changing global economy. More emphasis should be given to career advices but also to offers that the universities can give in different levels. Universities and businesses should collaborate to create STEM courses that are more business focused or have some business component.


In order to ensure the meeting of actual and future skills demands, educations institutions need to emphasize the development of core skills and competencies in all education levels. This should be supported by a better partnership between businesses, educations institutions and the government that should collaborate to offer better career advice, training opportunities and more business tailored courses.


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