Press release

UKCES welcomes call to close the gap between working and learning

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) today welcomed the findings of the OECD's latest report on post-secondary vocational education and training.


The report, Skills Beyond School, looked at training systems after school level and before university level across 20 countries. Published today at a national conference on vocational education taking place at the Skills Show, organised by Find a Future, the report recommends that England needs to put learning in the workplace at the heart of its vocational education system or face a growing gap between the qualifications colleges produce and the skills employers need.

Michael Davis, chief executive of UKCES, said

The OECD’s findings are exceptionally strong, and we support the view that higher level vocational training must have a clear line of sight to a job. Employers must be as close as possible to training to ensure the skills people develop are the ones businesses need.

The report compares systems of vocational training including in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to England, and finds that one of the reasons apprenticeships are so well-regarded on the continent is the level of employer support and engagement in the system.

Simon Field, lead researcher for vocational education at the OECD, said

Our report is one of the broadest and most systematic studies of training and education systems internationally ever undertaken. There are two key messages for the UK. One is the need to do more to provide intermediate technical and professional skills, beyond school but less than a bachelor’s degree. The second is to integrate work-based learning systematically into programmes, as the touchstone of high quality vocational training.

David Cragg, deputy chair of Find a Future, said

We’re pleased the OECD chose to highlight their work at the Skills Show – the UK’s largest skills and careers event. We support the OECD’s recommendations that vocational learning be systematic, with a high quality workforce, and provide clear links to further professional qualifications. Making the vocational route to qualifications as well-understood as the academic path is vital to ensuring students and employers have the skills they need for the future.

Valerie Todd, talent and resources director at Crossrail and commissioner at UKCES, said

The £14.8bn Crossrail project is the largest and most complex infrastructure project in Europe. We need everyone working on the project to be highly skilled and well trained in their area of expertise. We place a high priority on raising the skills-base of our own employees and those of our contractors. Our Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy works with our contractors to make sure every worker, whether a seasoned professional or a new apprentice, has the opportunity to learn while working and develop skills that will last a lifetime. Through our commitment to vocational training our legacy will be a workforce ready to deliver the next major infrastructure projects for the UK.

Skills Beyond School can be downloaded from the OECD website, along with a country note with findings for the UK.

Published 13 November 2014