Press release

UKCES welcomes increase in those taking degrees, but calls for more work-based skills

UK Commission for Employment and Skills welcomes new OECD findings, but calls for more work to give graduates the work-based skills they need.

Figures from the OECD revealing more than half of young people in the UK are expected to take on a degree have been welcomed by the government-backed UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)

But UKCES also warns that the skills of these graduates could go to waste unless more is done to create good jobs for young people, and prepare young people to take those jobs.

The findings from the OECD report, Education at a Glance, indicate that 55% of young adults in the UK will take a degree before they reach 25, compared with 39% in France and 53% in the US. They reflect UKCES projections anticipating an increase in those educated to degree level by 2020.

The OECD research comes just a week before the launch of a new UKCES report examining the importance of collaboration between employers and universities, highlighting the ways in which it can develop the skills of existing employees and prepare young people for work.

Forging Futures: Building higher level skills through university and employer collaboration, highlights the ways in which employers - including British Airways, Capgemini and GlaxoSmithKline - are working with universities to input into degree courses.

Such collaborations have helped employers tailor courses to develop graduates with the skills needed by industry, as well as offer experience and vital work-based skills for university leavers.

Alex Curling, Assistant Director at UKCES said:

It is welcome news to see how many highly skilled young people the UK has compared with other nations.

It is vital, however, that universities recognise the importance of giving young people the work based skills employers look for when recruiting, and ensure this is an integral part of learning.

With more and more young people taking degrees, it is increasingly important that they are given the attributes needed to get into work – many of which cannot be gained from a textbook.

Although there’s a lot of good work happening, creating even stronger links between employers and universities means that all sides can benefit - employers can expect a steady stream of talented recruits, universities can create more relevant and meaningful degrees, and students are given all the skills they need to find work.

Forging Futures: Building higher level skills through employer and university collaboration is due to be published on 17th September, and will be available at

For more information contact Adam Raistrick