Local Government Association critical of skills mismatches

England is failing young people by training them for jobs that don’t exist, while not providing them with the skills for areas where there is work, according to a report from the Local Government Association (LGA).

Hidden Talents argues that there is a mismatch between the jobs that young people are qualifying for and those that are available.

Last year more than 94,000 people completed hair and beauty courses, but only 18,000 new jobs were created in the sector, the LGA’s research suggests – and of those who qualified, more than 60 per cent were aged 16 to18. Meanwhile, more than double the number of people trained to work in hospitality, sport and leisure than jobs advertised in the sector.

In contrast, the report said that fewer than 40,000 people trained to fill about 72,000 new jobs in building and engineering. The environmental industry created about 89,000 jobs last year, but only 27,000 young people were trained to take them. There was also a gap between supply and demand in textile design, accountancy and jobs in the automotive industry.

A nationally driven one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.”

The data used in the report captured most achievements up to level 3 (equivalent to A-level), but did not capture non-accredited training on the job or degree-level training (level 4 and above).

The LGA argues that the “skills mismatch” is the result of colleges receiving funding from the government on the basis of studying and passing qualifications, rather than on job outcomes.

David Simmonds, chair of its children and young people board, said it was “indefensible” to encourage colleges to steer students on to low-prospect courses, rather than those that would help them to gain meaningful employment.

“A nationally driven one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. We need a shift in training priorities that prizes and rewards those that help students toward meaningful careers. It’s not right that young people trying to secure a good future are being deceived by a system that fails to look at what is best for them, or the taxpayer, and instead focuses on a bums-on-seats approach to education.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it had “concerns” about the “robustness” of some of the analysis and believed the conclusions were “unwarranted”, based on the analysis done.

A spokesman said: “The authors do not appear to have taken into account variation between occupations in staff nor in vacancy reporting, which is likely to substantially alter the comparative figures.”‬

The department said it had freed providers from top-down central targets and regulation so that they could better respond to the needs of their communities. The Employer Ownership Pilot was now targeting investment at the skills that employers and the economy needed to grow. ‬

Mark Ravenhall, director of policy and impact at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), said he agreed with much of the report but that there was “quite a lot more to say”.

He said that he was “a bit annoyed” that there was never a debate about Latin as a subject in private schools and whether there was an oversupply of  classicists.

“No one kicks up a fuss about that,” he said.

“What about the soft skills that you gain in doing hairdressing? What about the literacy and the foundation skills you develop in doing those courses?

“If you get transferable skills from doing a classics degree or PPE at Oxford, why don’t you get transferable skills form doing a hairdressing qualification? If that’s what people want to do, let them do it.”

Mr Ravenhall said the situation was looked at “too much from the employer’s perspective and not enough from the individual’s perspective”.