UK faces a ‘skills crisis’ Binley tells Parliament
Brian Binley MP warned yesterday of a ‘skills crisis for British business’ that requires immediate attention if the UK is to remain competitive. The Northampton South MP, a successful businessman himself, is alarmed by a growing global challenge from emerging countries over the next 30 years, at a time when the UK is already declining in its competitiveness.
Mr Binley was speaking during the Second Reading of the Further Education and Training Bill and said the trend could be reversed, but only with proactive and constructive Government action.
Mr Binley said:
“A British Chamber of Commerce survey found that over 55% of business managers find it more difficult to find skilled staff than they did 5 years ago. This is hardly surprising when nationally 20% of people are functionally illiterate and 50% are functionally innumerate. The Government is simply not doing enough to create the basic skills for an advanced and competitive economy
“Many of our traditional, locally based manufacturing businesses have contracted sizeably over the last 30 years but still represent an important sector of local industrial activity. In Northampton shoe manufacturers tell me that they could always rely on a large pool of experienced craftsman but that pool has dwindled dramatically, forcing them to train on site. Yet they tell me they get little help or understanding from Skills Council on other Government training bodies. This Bill does not recognise those problems or provide solutions for them.”
Mr Binley saved his most scathing criticism for the Government’s inability to allow small businesses a greater say in the Skills process. He said:
“The Government fails to recognise that small and medium sized enterprises operate locally, not nationally. Transferring responsibility from local skills councils to regional councils makes it harder for them to be involved in skills planning, skills delivery or the creation of training programmes, yet that is exactly what is intended in this Bill.
“We should face problems head on by creating structures which allow vocational and skills training to become much more focused on needs of the world of work. That means greater involvement by SME managers at a local level. The whole thrust in education has been focused on higher education often to the detriment of the workplace. We should change focus and make skills and vocational training an equal partner.
“This is the fourth time the current Government has restructured the skills network since they came to power. I am sure that they do not want to be in that position or to have to continue to spend unnecessary amounts of money on restructuring. They need to get it right by adopting management practices of the kind I have outlined again and again.
“In other words, it is yet another missed opportunity for dealing with a massive problem, the solution of which is vital to the nation’s future well-being.”