Skilled Workers

Department for Education written question – answered on 24th November 2021.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the likely levels of discrepancy between the (a) skills and geographic location of people looking for work and (b) needs of employers (i) within sectors, (ii) between sectors and (iii) across the whole economy, following the lifting of covid-19 public health measures.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department undertakes labour market analysis through numerous means to help determine immediate and longer-term skills needs, such as:

  • managing the Employer Skills Survey (ESS), which is the only national survey of employers providing comprehensive and robust information on employers’ skills needs by sector, occupation and geography, their interaction with the skills system, and their investment in training
  • publishing the current Working Futures labour market projections of jobs by sector, occupation, and geography for the UK labour market
  • funding Labour Market Information (LMI) for All - an impartial service which connects and standardises existing national sources of high quality and reliable LMI
  • establishing the Skills and Productivity Board which provides independent, expert, labour-market analysis on skills, skills mismatches, and their impacts (for 2021, this includes a focus on skills shortages)
  • establishing 36 Skills Advisory Panels across the country to undertake analysis of local labour markets and produce Local Skills Reports setting out an area’s main skills strengths and needs

We last ran the ESS in 2019, which captured employer reported skill shortages by sector, occupation, location, and skill-type. The ESS showed that construction and manufacturing employers were among the sectors that struggled the most to find applicants with the right skills, experience, or qualifications. The ESS also showed that, within most sectors, employers found it the most difficult to find adequately skilled applicants for occupations classed as ‘skilled trades’.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for collecting data on job vacancies, which is a measure of employer skill needs. Since the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions, official statistics show that the largest proportional increases in vacancies between May-July 2021 to August-October 2021 occurred in the construction sector, transport and storage sector, and manufacturing sector. Further information can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/jobsandvacanciesintheuk/november2021.

We are also working to make the skills system more responsive to employer need.

The ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper launched earlier this year set out our aims to build on the success of our flagship apprenticeships programme by putting employers at the heart of the system so that education and training provision meets their needs. By 2030, almost all technical courses will be aligned to employer-led standards, ensuring that the education and training people receive are directly linked to the skills needed for jobs.

The white paper also set out our plans for local areas to be able to plan what skills they need, with local employers leading the process. We are therefore introducing Local Skills Improvement Plans, starting in a small number of trailblazer areas in 2021 led by established employer representative organisations. The first eight were announced in July 2021. The Plans will bring together colleges and other providers, employers, Job Centres Plus, and other local organisations to identify skills needs and the capacity the area has to deliver them.

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, the government has provided a total of £352 billion to support the economy. This includes the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Plan for Jobs programmes such as Restart and Kickstart, alongside other measures to boost work search activity, skills and apprenticeships.

As a result, latest figures confirm we are now above pre-COVID-19 outbreak levels of employees on payroll.

We are working across government and across the country to identify sectors with immediate or growing demand and are implementing a range of initiatives to ensure that upskilling programmes meet this demand.

This work includes the sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) where Jobcentre staff work with local employers and tailor training and support packages to help claimants fill local vacancies. DWP is increasing the number of SWAP opportunities to 80,000 over the current financial year 2021/22.

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