A report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) which warned workforce skills and skills provision must be increased to boost productivity, wages and social mobility has been branded “disappointing” by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).

The report, Growth through people, published on Monday (November 24), outlined five priorities for action over the next 20 years, including giving employers leadership in the skills and apprenticeship system, measuring job outcomes as success not just qualifications, increasing workplace productivity, more opportunities to earn and learn, and stronger links between employers and education.

A spokesperson for AELP said it welcomed the report’s “focus on skills as a key driver of sustainable economic recovery” and its calls for closer working between employers and training providers of all types.

“However it is disappointing that the paper says ‘FE colleges should be supported to work with employers’,” he said.

“This institutional view of the sector does not reflect that the best provision of technical skills often involves partnerships between employers, colleges and independent training providers.”

Stewart Segal, AELP chief executive, added: “The partnership approach to skills with employers having the choice to work with training providers of all types is the only way forward.”

But, he added: “There is much in the UKCES report that we can support. The focus on employer engagement, the role of skills in driving productivity and the focus on earning and learning are all approaches AELP has promoted over many years.

“We need to drive the apprenticeship programme and we need a period of long term stability not fundamental change proposed by the government.”

And Mr Segal warned “employer leadership” should not necessarily mean complete control over funding. “Employers want to retain the choice of direct funding or working with their chosen training provider and we should retain this option in the system,” he said.

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, described the report as “important” — pointing to a “perfect storm” of widening skills gaps, high unemployment an aging population and a reduction in employer investment in training over the last five years.

“There are solutions to this. The UKCES itself is a good start in establishing the national and local partnership approach between Government, employers, providers and workers,” he said.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Employers must work together with the education community to create meaningful qualifications for today’s fast-changing global skills economy.”