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This World Youth Skills Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to deliver the skills young people need for employment

4 min read

Earlier this summer at a Sotheby’s auction, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, sold its original source code for $5.4 million.

What is most fascinating is not the millions of pounds he has raised, but the fact that the source code was sold in the form of a blockchain-based token – a crypto asset that records ownership of digital items.

This just goes to show how technology is continuously reshaping the world, changing how we do business through innovation. Among other uses today, blockchain is being used to solve problems across financial services, video games, supply chain and healthcare – yet it only came into existence in 2008.

Ever since I started my own career as an apprentice in a car factory in Liverpool in the 1980s, there has been huge technological progress in the workplace.

Skills shortages in this country have persisted for a long, long time.

The internet, mobile phones and digital payments were three ground-breaking changes that took place during my business career, requiring new operating models, new skills, and bringing new disruption, risks, and opportunities.

Today, though, it is the scale and speed of it that we need to grasp.

As we mark World Youth Skills Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to deliver the skills young people need for employment, not just today, but for jobs in decades to come.

If we are going to be a world-leader in green energy, build large infrastructure projects such as HS2 and prepare students for the jobs of the future then we need to do three things.

Firstly, we need to give technical education the recognition it deserves.

For too long, a full-time university course has been seen as the only route to success, and this simply isn’t the case. At our Institutes of Technology, brand new institutions created in collaboration with employers such as Bosch and Microsoft, young people are studying high-tech courses from gaming and data analytics, to e-sports and software development. IoTs are training people for the jobs of the future, today.

Secondly, we need to put employers at the heart of the system. The fact is there are too many people leaving education or training without the skills that businesses need.

This is not a new phenomenon; skills shortages in this country have persisted for a long, long time.

The Employer Skills Survey 2019 suggested there were 214,000 vacancies which employers were unable to fill because they could not find people with the right skills, qualifications, or experience. This equated to 24% of all vacancies.

And analysis by McKinsey suggests a growing demand for skills, and an increasing skills mismatch, with around seven million additional workers predicted to be under skilled by 2030.

Coronavirus has exacerbated these problems. So, we need to double down on our commitment that by 2030, almost all technical courses will be based on employer-led standards.

This is what is at the centre of our Skills for Jobs White Paper, giving businesses a say in what training people get so that come graduation, they can secure well-paid and rewarding jobs, such as in our NHS, in professions such as accountancy and law, and in high-tech industries.

Finally, we need to be more flexible. Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web has given us the ability to do incredible things remotely, and there is no reason why the best of this cannot be used in education and training.

What’s more, there are fewer and fewer compelling arguments against modular learning – whereby learners fit in training, retraining and upskilling around their lives.

That is why we are going to change the higher and further education system, so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance so they can train and retrain throughout their lives, levelling up opportunity throughout the country.

Utilising technology will be at the heart of this, and it will give people who have childcare or caring commitments, or work obligations, the chance to gain new skills, and ultimately find work that they enjoy more and pays better.

None of these changes will be easy, but by embracing technology and putting it at the heart of skills reform today, we will reap the rewards tomorrow.







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