UK skills emergency signals urgent need for inter-sector communication

Europe Uncategorized

Last month, results of the annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey dropped a bombshell on politicians, educators, students, jobseekers and employers in the UK: two thirds of businesses expect their need for staff with higher-level skills to increase sharply, but more than 50% fear that they will not be able to recruit enough trained workers.


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Based on responses from 310 firms employing more than one million people in the UK, the results raise serious questions about the adequacy of UK apprenticeships and the extent to which politicians, educators and employers align goals.

“There is a conundrum at the heart of the UK’s skills shortage,” says David Holland, CEO of the Instructus Group – a group of not-for-profit companies that provide lifelong learning, training and consultancy to upskill the UK workforce and drive productivity.

“There is a broad political consensus that skills development should be aligned with the needs of business and society. However, very little is actually being done to open communication channels and bring about constructive change. Our national workforce is characterised by skills gaps in some areas and skills surpluses in others, and that is seriously damaging to both employers and employees.”

According to Holland, part of the problem is that needs and insights are often siloed rather than communicated to key influencers. For example, conferences about skills are often organised for educators to speak to one another. This is something that the Instructus Group is trying to change through conferences designed to help employers understand and address their skills needs for the future.

“There is an urgent need in the UK for high-quality conferences that enable entrepreneurs and professionals in HR, recruitment and operations to learn directly from leaders at skills-focused bodies, businesses and educational institutions,” says Holland. “Very few conferences provide the right mix of academic insight and practical guidance.”   

Professor Tristram Hooley of the University of Derby, an expert on careers guidance, is one academic who has recently partnered with the Instructus Group to reduce the gap between educators and employers.

“Professor Hooley’s work revolves around aligning the education and business worlds to develop an appropriately skilled workforce,” says Holland. “He advocates a holistic approach to developing a nation, and challenges the conventional thinking of educators and employers. So he was an obvious choice to speak at our next conference in November.”

Mark Froud, Managing Director of the Federation for Industry Skills and Standards, is another expert who has joined forces with the Instructus Group as a speaker for the November conference.

“The Federation for Industry Skills and Standards is working to improve the performance of half a million UK employers,” says Holland. “Mark is uniquely positioned to provide an overview of the current landscape, predict future needs and provide practical advice to employers on skills, workplace learning and productivity.”

Other high-profile speakers for the Instructus Group’s November conference, titled Revolution in Business and Skills, include Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft UK, Mike Thompson, Director of Early Careers at Barclays, and Jane Beine, Head of Partner Development at the John Lewis Partnership.

“All of these speakers have managed successful teams in highly competitive industries.” says Holland. “In doing so, they’ve learnt how to develop and get the best out of their staff, and our conference enables them to share first-hand experiences and practical lessons with other employers.”

“The results of last month’s CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey expose the extent of the skills emergency in the UK,” says Holland. “If the UK is to remain a leading economy, all sectors need to acknowledge this crisis, pool knowledge and align goals through conferences, joint projects and other forms of dialogue.”

Revolution in Business and Skills – the Instructus Group’s 2nd annual conference – will take place at the Wyboston Lakes Executive Centre in Bedfordshire, UK, on Wednesday, 25 November 2015. Tickets can be purchased via the Instructus Group’s website at:

Conference details:



Wednesday 25 November 2015, 9:30am–4:00pm

Executive Centre | Wyboston Lakes | Great North Road | Wyboston | Bedfordshire | MK44 3AL