Experts have warned that the benefits of economic recovery and growth will only be fully realised if there is continued investment in skills.

The first National Strategic Skills Audit, commissioned by the government and published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, shows that the last decade has seen unprecedented increases in the number of people with qualifications. However, the report warns that if the economic recovery is to continue it is important that future skills development needs are correctly identified and prioritised.

If this is not achieved then the country runs the risk of increased skills shortages and under-employment, it says.

It also finds that:

•The number of people reported as ‘not fully proficient’ at their jobs has increased by 400,000 from 1.3 million in 2005 to 1.7 million in 2009;
•Leadership and management skills and technical skills are in need of particular improvement;
•The UK’s growth in highly skilled jobs is one of the lowest in the OECD.
Chris Humphries CBE, Chief Executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said:

“The National Strategic Skills Audit shows that there have been some substantial changes in the labour market over the past decade. In order to operate in this fast-changing environment we need comprehensive market intelligence, showing us which are the really key priorities for future investment. The National Strategic Skills Audit is the single best source of that, and will help employers, individuals, and education and training providers to make the best informed decisions possible.

He added:

“Despite having a more skilled workforce than at any time in our history, we still lag behind many of our major economic competitors. In order to catch up, skills investment needs to connect more to the jobs that need doing now and that will need doing in the future. We need more and better jobs not just to recover from the recession, but to be better than we were before it.”

Sir Mike Rake, Chair of BT plc and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills added:

“Our National Strategic Skills Audit doesn’t have all the answers, but it does provide a chart by which to sail. Markets – all markets – operate on information and this Audit provides the richest and most comprehensive information ever produced about skills and jobs in England. We believe that the information it contains will act as a wake-up call to everyone involved in skills and employment policy and practice. Tomorrow’s jobs are not the same as today’s and we would be failing in our collective responsibility if we didn’t look to see what’s coming down the line and prepare ourselves to meet it.”