Making the UK employable: Plan for Jobs and Build Back Better
Dan Howard, Director – Learning for Work
One really positive thing that has come out of the upheaval of the past 18 months is that it has got us talking! Talking about issues we’re facing, problems we need solving, and most importantly, ways in which we can work together to combat the issues either brought about or exacerbated by the pandemic. I for one, have never before seen so much conversation and collective work to highlight and fight through the barriers to positive outcomes in education and employment so there’s never been a better time to bring about change and make a difference in people's lives.
Spotlight on skills and unemployment
Unemployment is not a new issue, but it is very much at the forefront of both the public and government agenda as we emerge from lockdown measures and move towards more normality in our day to day lives. This spotlight on unemployment is a great opportunity to shape the system going forward and gives us a chance to examine what works and what doesn’t in an often overlooked sector. It’s fantastic to see the government skills agenda so clearly aligned to employability needs and with that in mind, it really is our chance to capitalise on this. This is our chance to get it right.
10 years ago, my career started in the welfare to work sector, so skills and employment have always been incredibly important to me. In this sector, I worked with people from all walks of life and always tried to put myself in their shoes to understand how issues affected them personally. Through doing this, I realised there is very much not a one size fits all solution out there but an array of complexities when it comes to supporting people back into work.
Navigating a large and complex sector
There are currently 85 initiatives in place to support people back into employment which is so encouraging but also potentially overwhelming. The issue that we face with that many options is that it can be difficult for people to know where to turn and which initiative best suits them and their situation. Not only is it difficult to navigate as an individual, but it’s also a complex landscape for organisations and employers.
The government are taking the right approach in prioritising unemployment as it is such a significant issue. There are several options to help simplify and enhance the system which include sector-based work academies, changing and developing apprenticeships and traineeships, and even exploring the idea of regional providers to help focus provision in each area of the country. Whichever route is taken will only succeed if there is a robust framework in place built on quality, providing the highest standards of support, and with clear and focussed outcomes.
Communication is the key to success
The answer seems in large part to me to centre around clear communication and provision that is easy to access - especially as we are entering a period in our history when these resources are being called upon in such high volumes. We need to look at how we manage referrals and careers advice, especially regarding mapping skills across career paths and championing the importance of meta skills.
I want to highlight this conversation and this issue because it’s so close to our hearts at Skills Forward and NCFE. We champion learning at all stages in life and are doing all we can to support our centres and learners to succeed in what has been and continues to be a time of extreme turbulence and uncertainty. Seeing the difference we can make as an organisation to a person’s life is so empowering and drives us to move forward, improving our services, adapting and evolving our systems, and ultimately achieving our end goal of equipping learners for the world of work in the best possible way. Let’s keep talking - together we can drive change and make a real difference to the future of our young people.
We recently discussed this issue in more detail in a recent NCFE podcast which you can listen to here.