Industrial strategy is welcome, but risks being overly narrow

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, welcomes the Government’s new industrial strategy but warns that investment in skills needs to be far broader

Responding to the publication of the Government’s industrial strategy  Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:

“The CIPD supports the Government’s aspiration of cultivating world-leading sectors, however more clarity is needed on the ‘sector-deals’ the Government is hoping to help create and what type of support would be available to businesses under these.

“Once again the strategy looks to expand the provision of STEM skills in the UK, but fails to recognise that one of the obstacles to addressing this is that too many existing STEM graduates don’t go into the occupations or industries that demand these sort of qualifications. Until we address this problem, as well as do more to identify the core skills that make STEM subjects so valuable, additional investment in STEM risks being wasted.

“More broadly on skills, we welcome the increase in investment in technical education, but we question whether adding another layer of complexity to the education system by creating new institutes of technology is the best way of doing this. Re-focusing part of the existing Higher Education system to developing technical skills would make more sense, particularly when employment outcomes for many graduates in subjects such as social sciences, arts and humanities are deteriorating.

“The strategy also overlooks the need for significant additional investment in lifelong learning. Provision for adult learning (Age 19+) measured by achievements has been cut by 25 per cent since 2011 and today’s announcement does nothing to reverse this decline. Greater investment in lifelong learning is crucial to allow workers at different stages of their careers to up-skill or re-skill in response to automation and advances in technology, especially as people will be working for longer.

“The future of work is rapidly changing. If this is to be a truly modern industrial strategy the Government must focus more attention on how people can develop transferrable or new skills that will help them to adapt and flourish and secure the UK’s status as a true talent hub.”