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UK apprenticeships `need to double`

01 January, 2007

UK apprenticeships `need to double`

By 2020, the number of apprentices being trained in the UK should be doubled to around 500,000 a year if the nation is to become a world leader in skills, says a major report drawn up for the Government. The report*, prepared by Lord Sandy Leitch, recommends a far-reaching agenda, pointing out that with emerging economies such as China and India growing dramatically, the UK cannot afford to stand still.

"Without increased skills, we would condemn ourselves to a lingering decline in competitiveness, diminishing economic growth and a bleaker future for all," Lord Leitch warned at the launch of his report recently. "The case for action is compelling and urgent. Becoming a world leader in skills will enable to UK to compete with the best in the world. I am optimistic."

At present, the UK lags behind other developed countries in its skills base. Out of 30 OECD countries, it lies 17th on low skills, 20th on intermediate skills, and 11th on high skills. In addition, five million British adults lack functional literacy and 17 million have difficulty with numbers.

The report warns that if the skills deficit is not addressed, inequality will increase and some groups will be marginalised in the labour market. Even if current targets are met, the UK`s skill base in 2020 will still be behind those of many other developed countries.

Lord Leitch`s recommendations include:

introducing a voluntary pledge for employers to train more employees at work - if insufficient progress is made by 2010, the Government should give employees a statutory right to workplace training;

strengthening employer influence by creating a Commission for Employment and Skills and reforming sector skills councils;

boosting employer investment in higher-level qualifications, especially at the apprenticeship, degree and post-graduate levels; and

introducing compulsory education or workplace training up to the age of 18.

If Lord Leitch`s skills goals are achieved, he says they will result in a more prosperous and productive society with higher rates of employment and lower levels of poverty and inequality. He estimates the potential net benefit will be worth at least £80bn over 30 years - an annual boost of £2.5bn.

EEF, the manufacturers` association, has welcomed the Leitch report. Martin Temple, the organisation`s director general, says that it sets out "a compelling, common-sense vision for making skills provision respond to employers` needs". He adds that the Government "must now back this by funding the improvements recommended by Leitch, and by taking steps to simplify our current skills system".

* Copies of Lord Leitch`s report, Prosperity for all in the global economy: World class skills, can be downloaded from

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