Why we must turn Britain into a nation of life-long learners - Beckie Hart

A couple of weeks ago, the CBI published its latest annual Education and Skills survey in partnership with Pearson.

Beckie Hart

UK employers spent a colossal £44.2bn on training in 2017 and new CBI data revealed that 84 per cent of firms surveyed are expecting to maintain or increase investment in training their workforce.

Whether it’s tackling an ageing population, globalisation, technological change or creating a fairer society, firms clearly understand the almost unique role education plays in everyone’s lives.

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This year, our survey showed that more than four in five businesses now offer apprenticeship programmes and around 63 per cent said they plan to expand their apprenticeship training in the future.

Employers also signalled that they are taking both lifelong learning and upskilling seriously – with over half anticipating the need to upskill or retrain their workforce in the coming year.

Because turning the UK into a nation of lifelong learners will be critical to ensure our country is well placed to reap the benefits of digital, technology and other changes in the workplace.

It’s clear that education and skills are consistently at the top of the priority list for companies – but there was one particular statistic that really jumped out at me this year.

Links between business and schools, colleges and universities have expanded – with over nine in ten participants now having some sort of partnership. This is a big priority for the CBI in all of our regions in 2020 and I am always encouraged by how quickly our members respond to calls to action from schools to participate in their initiatives for preparing pupils for the world of work.

Firms value strong academic understanding but prioritise work readiness when recruiting school and college leavers.

They place a high value on young people having interacted in some way with the world of work and are stepping up even more to provide this – from work experience to increasing their presence in secondary schools and colleges.

On the flip side though, really understanding what their own skills needs are and being able to articulate those to the education sector is vital and could speed up the process of closing some of the skills gaps that do persist.

In our region, we can see this in action with companies from DFDS in Immingham to Myers Group in Huddersfield and next year, we want to see every business step up to the plate.

And what will we do here at the CBI? We will continue to forge a powerful partnership between business, government and education institutions to ensure our education and skills system is fit for the modern world.

We will do this by focusing on three key areas: helping to ensure the education system prepares young people for the modern world of work; championing our world-class education institutions – including schools, colleges, and universities; and finally, creating the right conditions within business for lifelong learning.

Because by rising to the challenge, together we can create a modern education system that’s fit for the future.

Beckie Hart - is the regional director for Yorkshire and Humber with the CBI