England's skills puzzle - Piecing together further education, training and employment


The Skills Commission, of which Learning and Work Institute are the inquiry partner, calls on the government to give skills and lifelong learning renewed attention.

This new report makes seven recommendations for creating a more coherent and responsive skills system to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and lifelong learning in England.

It follows a 12-month inquiry chaired by former Skills Minister, Sir John Hayes CBE MP, and leading figures from across further education (FE), skills and industry. The inquiry, conducted over 2019 by Policy Connect and Learning and Work Institute, saw the Commission hold inquiry sessions in Westminster, Lincolnshire, the Tees Valley and the West of England – receiving evidence from over 80 contributors in the process including: employers, providers, learners and representatives of local and national government.

The Commission found that employers are struggling to engage in an overly centralised skills system. Unlike other developed countries, England lacks channels to engage employers on a collective basis and has few local levers to adjust provision to meet local needs. Furthermore, a restricted and volatile funding system that promotes competition over collaboration is limiting the ability of colleges and training providers to respond effectively to local employers at a time when retraining and upskilling is becoming more important than ever.