The UK Needs to Focus on Skill Growth, According to the OECD

As I’ve been writing about recently, the UK jobs market is in a bit of a quandary. We’re suffering from brain-drain and have a widening skills gap, yet at the same time employment levels are at a record-high. In fact, our unemployment rates are extremely low when compared to most countries in the OECD group (including the US, Canada and Japan).

Although, as with most news of this nature, this doesn’t paint the full picture. According to a new OECD report Getting Skills Right: United Kingdom, growth in labour productivity remains weak, and the job prospects of UK adults are poor due to a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills. In order to improve growth the report suggests we look at lifelong learning and better adoption of technology.

Getting Skills Right: United Kingdom

According to the OECD’s report, 42% of UK adults have tertiary degrees (postsecondary certificates, diplomas, and associate’s and bachelor’s degrees), compared to 34% across the OECD countries. Of UK graduates, 16% are from the sciences – more than any other country – with women constituting nearly half of science graduates.

Looking at vocational courses, those enrolled in the UK has risen to 43%, though this is still considerably less than in many other European countries. Apprenticeships in the UK are also less popular, with only 24% of secondary school students pursuing them, far less than the 59% in Switzerland and 41% in Germany.

These figures will improve with recent regulatory reforms regarding apprenticeships, according to the report, though we need to be vigilant in stopping companies from rebranding existing training as an apprenticeship, and offering shoddy options.

The Skills Gap

As we already know the skills gap is ever-present in the UK with very little sign of it closing any time soon. However, the report has found that the amount of high-skilled jobs remains low in relation to the amount of qualified graduates flooding the jobs market – only one third of jobs require degree-level education.

At the same time the amount of low-skilled jobs remains high at 22%, just behind Spain who lead the line here. On top of this, close to 40% of UK workers are reported to be either over or underqualified for their jobs.

So what can be done?

According to the OECD’s report, there are three main areas that we should be focusing on:

– Career guidance services need to be strengthened in order to match skill-suitability with the jobs market and reduce the issue with over and under qualified recruits.

– Lifelong learning should be encouraged in all sectors, and the increase in availability of Advanced Learner Loans should help in this regard, as will paid training leave for ‘in-demand skills’.

– Groups need to do more to spread the good word about the value of training. Employers and investors need to be educated in the returns that they can expect to see and encouraged to provide solutions for their staff.

So as ever, we need to redress our focus on education, not only at youth level, but for even the most senior of staff.

What is the OECD?

Standing for The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD’s mission is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world, and was founded in 1961.

Looking at issues that affect people’s day to day lives, such as taxation, social security, employment and leisure, the OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.

The member states of the OECD are: Austria, Belgium, Canada,Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway

Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom & The United States.

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