Policy recommendations

The education and training system is not equipping individuals with the skills they need for the future labour market. Too many young people are leaving education without the foundations needed or without having accessed additional opportunities to develop these skills, and too few adults are participating in the lifelong learning that will help them adapt. The education and training system is not equipping individuals with the skills they need for the future labour market. Too many young people are leaving education without the foundations needed or without having accessed additional opportunities to develop these skills, and too few adults are participating in the lifelong learning that will help them adapt.

Interventions should aim at improving opportunities to develop interpersonal and analytical skills, in and out of the classroom, especially in weaker city economies. This means acting on several fronts at every stage in the education and training system to ensure that national reforms result in better outcomes across the country.

Given the scale of the challenge, this will require a concerted effort and action on several fronts to improve take-up and quality of provision at every stage. In particular:

  1. Cities should establish Skills Compacts to promote collective responsibility and action for improving education and training. City leaders and metro mayors should bring local stakeholders, including schools, FE colleges and training providers, universities, businesses and the third sector, together to sign up to a shared commitment to increase learning and improve outcomes in their city. The Compact should aim to ensure better coordination among organisations, share knowledge and best practice, and raise awareness of existing initiatives to improve the quality of opportunities and access to them. To measure progress, every Compact should set a measurable target for participation and outcomes.
  2. The Department for Education and the devolved administrations must match local efforts with increased flexibility for cities to experiment and tailor provision. Different places face different challenges related to education and what works in one place might not work in another. The Department for Education (DfE) should acknowledge these differences and work more closely with the Compact’s stakeholders to increase flexibility in provision, pilot new initiatives and allocate resources in a way that is reflective of local needs.
  3. The Department for Education should lead on creating a common framework to define interpersonal and analytical skills. The language and definitions used to describe these skills often varies, with references to ‘employability’, ‘soft’, ‘vital’ and ‘transferrable’ skills, among others. This results in a lack of clear understanding of what skills individuals need to succeed in the labour market. DfE should work with employers and skills experts to establish a clear definition of the interpersonal and analytical skills that are needed for current and future jobs, and review how they can be embedded in each educational stage. This would help ensure these skills are better valued, improve learning opportunities, and support the identification of good practice.
  4. The Government should take a cross-departmental approach to raising awareness across the existing workforce of and participation in lifelong learning, supported by a new What Works Centre for Adult Education. As the nature of jobs continues to evolve and people work for longer, it is crucial to ensure that individuals that have already left compulsory education can up-skill and retrain. Government departments need to work together to raise awareness of opportunities and remove barriers to them, including financial ones. To be effective it is essential that this builds on lessons from the past and is supported by evidence on what works.