UK will fall behind on world stage unless universities & business boost skill training

Tomorrow’s Growth argues that relying alone on traditional university courses will not meet the growing demand for degree-level, technical skills in key sectors like manufacturing, construction, IT and engineering.

It says that government needs to remove a series of barriers to better co-operation and address the 40 per cent drop in part-time undergraduate applicants since 2010-11.

The CBI warns businesses need to tackle the perception that A-levels followed by a three-year residential course are the only route to a good career, with higher tuition fees meaning young people are getting more astute in deciding what to study from 18.

The UK’s biggest business group says there are not enough courses with business links; patchy understanding of student finance; and poor careers advice on options open to young people – arguing a new vocational UCAS-style system could bridge the gap.

It says universities need to boost the number of employer-backed “sandwich” courses and compressed or part-time degrees, which give students practical work experience or allow them to support their studies.

And it says businesses need to expand their commitment to high-quality training schemes – such as higher & advanced apprenticeships; work-based training; and fast-track schemes aimed at school leavers – alongside traditional degrees.

Katja Hall, CBI Policy Director, said: “The UK needs to vastly increase the stock of workers with higher-level skills to drive long-term growth and stop us falling behind our competitors.

“We need to tackle the perception that the A-levels and three year-degree model is the only route to a good career.

“When faced with £27,000 debt, young people are already becoming much savvier in shopping around for routes to give them the competitive edge in a tighter job market.

“Universities must be much more innovative to take advantage of the change in students’ approach. And we need businesses to roll up their sleeves and expand high-quality alternative routes where degrees are not the best option for young people.”

“The careers advice system is lagging these rapid changes in alternatives to university. The system is too dependent on individual teachers or it’s left to family and friends to try and pick up the pieces – that’s simply not good enough.

“Ministers need to be much less laissez-faire. Careers must be a priority not a bolt-on afterthought.”

Tomorrow’s Growth identifies that key changes need to be made in our education system to ensure universities and businesses can step up to this challenge. The CBI argues the key challenge for the Government is removing the barriers that currently exist to co-operation, around finance, information, relationships and the lack of incentives in the system to focus on employment outcomes.