Britain faces a skills crisis. So says the British Chamber of Commerce and nothing highlights the truth of that statement more than the fact that only 14% of our workforce has NVQ level 3 qualification or above, as opposed to 46% of the German workforce holding similar qualifications. Britain faces a skills shortage of immense proportions.
The DTI Select Committee (now renamed the DBERR Select Committee) had its first opportunity to interview Lord Birmingham, the new Minister for Trade and Investment, better known to you and me as Digby Jones, the former CBI Chief.
Lord Brum (as I prophesised the media would dub him) initially said his main role was to ‘really push with the employers the need to skill their employees…I am very pleased I have been asked to do it.’ However Lord Brum’s appointment followed shortly after the Leitch report, which called for employers to promote skills to ensure the UK remains economically competitive. However when asked by the Chairman of the Committee what happened to his old job as skills envoy he could only reply ‘I don’t know. ‘
So much for joined up Government in this vital area.
Don’t get me wrong the appointment of Lord Brum is a positive one for British business, not least because hardly any Labour MPs have had experience of founding a small business that later developed into a meaningful employer.
Indeed the Parliamentary Library itself confirmed that only 7% of the Labour Parliamentary Party had any relevant business experience at all so Lord Brum’s insight is a welcome addition to a Labour Party weak in expertise in this area.
But none of that can cover up Labour’s total failure in skills which reaches back even to our Primary Schools’ performance. One in six adults do not have the literacy skills expected of an eleven year old but more shockingly more than 50% do not have the numeracy skills.
To cap it all around 120,000 11 year olds leave Primary school each year unable to properly read and write.
What an idictment of this Labour government.
We should move decision making regarding skills training back to the local level.
We should involve local businesses more effectively in the skills training programme.
Finally we should forget the Government’s ludicrous target of getting 50% of our school leavers into university to gain stupid degrees which few in business recognise.We should concentrate bespoke educational and vocational support onto pupil’s individual needs and abilities and not make pupils match national targets. You only have to consider Labour’s record to recognise the vital truth of that statement.
Brian Binley MP