Wednesday 17 January 2007

UK Skills & productivity - Leitch Review

Sir Digby Jones, the new ambassador for Skills in the UK was on the Today programme this morning to discuss the Leitch review.

The Review was published last December as a review of the way skills are developed in the UK. Overall there it takes a dim view of our achievement to date. We have 5 million adults who cannot read even the yellow pages and 11 million who could not count their change in a shop properly.

Interestingly the report notes how adult education is critical to learning, as we will in future have fewer graduates and school leavers due to demographic change.

My view is that our educational failure is the main cause of our low economic productivity relative to competitor countries such as the US, France and Japan. Also the report notes we spend about 1% of GDP on higher education, with 2% spent as the OECD average (see here how poorly we do in the various tables) . Also in China and India much greater store is set by learning and education.

I hope Digby, always outspoken in his career, will lead the charge to improve the situation. No doubt government will take a nannyish role; especially with the weak Bill Rammell in charge.

We need to get our population to want to train itself, have the self-motivation and even be willing to pay for their own training. Sadly, I cannot see a Labour government and associated quango's being able to change the mentality that all your education is courtesy of the state and finishes when you leave school. I hope the Tories can come up with some better policies in this crucial area.

UPDATE: Ian and Newmania have rasied good points in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

Labour has made drastic cutbacks on adult education. I wish they could have spent some of that £900 million on anti-truancy over the last few years on these programmes, not just helping these adults with poor literacy skills, but also mums who need to retrain to return to work. So much could have been done, so much money has been wasted.

I'm a fan of Sir Digby, let's hope he can do a good job here.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I agree with you. The idea that our education finishes when we leave school is disastrous for any economy in this day and age.

CityUnslicker said...

Well Ellee, I aread your thoughts with interest. I think the key is hte private sector stepping up to the wicket too.

It is really not all about more government money ill-spent.

Newmania said...

I am astonished that we are less productive than France . What is your evidence for this ?
Otherwise are you sure that the Blairite education thing is really the problem . You hunt at doubts yourself in your last paragraph. I can assure you that there is ample money for the people who are unable to read to be able to read.
The problem in fact revolves around the NUT and their obstructiuve attitude to reform of dreadful teach practices. People will train and learn if there is some point in them doing so which at 70% marginal rates of taxation( much more counting benefits and housing), there is not .

I am entirely unconvinced that the answer is to extract more tax payers money to spray at this mythical "education".

If you are primarily discussing retraining at an adult level then you have to lok at the housing market as the main reason our economy will not perform the supply side as the US for example. Especilally the warap produced by Public housing . Look at Scotland the Albania of the West and that is what is happening to us

BUT the tax burden is the main problem which is why i was querying France . It gives the impression of a country on its knees but I only look at the pictures.

Great stuff CU I have now got into the habit of saving your links views.

1`m getting cleverer everyday. I wonder if you will have alook at National debt which has always confused me .

Anonymous said...

CU, I'd agree that the mentality that all your education is courtesy of the state and finishes when you leave school needs to be changed. However, I'm a little worried that your main concern appears to be low economic productivity relative to competitor countries.

There is an argument that mass education was only introduced when the demands of industrialisation began to require minimal levels of literacy and numeracy. I'm deeply uncomfortable with the notion that education should concentrate solely on making people employable. Is there really no need or space in the curriculum for instilling an appreciation of less overtly vocational subjects,never mind the capacity for independent and critical thought (not that you'll get many states arguing for the latter...)? If not, then surely let the private sector take on the costs of training the personnel it needs, but we should be very wary of imposing these costs on the individual.

I don't know about you, but I see myself as a person first while employee is way down that list. I'm aware there is an apparent paradox between the conclusion of that previous paragraph and the fact that I am taking a big cut in potential earnings in order to try and get another qualification. Yet for me it is consistent: for perhaps the first time in my life, I am actively enjoying the learning process, and it also allows me a lot of time with my family. The fact that it may help me later on to get the career I want is, again, way down the list.

Oh, and if I wasn't getting some state funding, then I wouldn't be able to try and get the qualification at all.

CityUnslicker said...

N - France is indeed 12% more productive per person than we are in economic terms. Germany is 15%, Japan 18% and the USA 23%.

There are many reasons for this, the largest single contributor (I believe) is that we emply less capital per person and conduct less R&D. This means people have less access to IT for example and so are not able to be so productive.

Poor management training and other training, which should be included under skills, plays a key role too. Companies on the whole do not want to invest in people who they view as a transient resource.

The lack of basic skills undoubtedly holds our country back, particularly smaller firms who have to make do with the staff they have.

Ian- I am not against education for educations sake. However re skills, if people are ill-equipped after schooling in basic reading and writing they do not have many choices in life. Your position is very different I would guess. We are focusing here on the very lowest educational achievers who will not be able to progress beyond minimum wage jobs due to their poor skill set.

In order to help develop these I support Digby Jones' idea that business needs to be engaged in training its people, post-school. To do this we need to appeal to them in on their terms; i.e. that it will help their business going forward.

Finally, people like yourself see the need for re-skilling in life to make the most of what they want to do. This culture has to be further spread out amongst the populce, instead of encouragina reliance on the state and no concept of self-improvement.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, CU, I hadn't paid enough attention to your second paragraph. There's a cheap crack about basic reading skills to be made at this point, if only I could think of it...

In your comment you rightly say if people are ill-equipped after schooling in basic reading and writing they do not have many choices in life. No argument there. But are these the people that business will be interested in recruiting, never mind helping to develop further? I wonder how much the private sector will be interested in this section of society.

I think you identify a further problem when you say Companies on the whole do not want to invest in people who they view as a transient resource. I have yet to work for an organisation that seems to realise the importance of its staff to its success. I entirely agree that management attitudes need to be changed here. I never thought this phrase would emanate from my keyboard, but for once I agree with Digby Jones. Gulp.

James Higham said...

Having been in the education field and having done my longest and most gruelling set of posts on this issue, I agree with your conclusions about the education failure and how adult training must play an increasingly important role.

Either way, I always felt that children came to secondary education too early.

CityUnslicker said...

Ian - it is a big challenge but one that needs ot be faced.

James - I agree with you too, in the UK we seek to focus children on too few subjects at an early age.

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