DfE plans ‘classification’ tool to fix ‘fragmented and deficient’ skills system

New system would also help employers be 'more innovative and flexible'

New system would also help employers be 'more innovative and flexible'

20 Oct 2023, 10:00

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Government plans are afoot to develop a “long overdue” skills “classification tool” in a bid to help training providers to be “more efficient”.

The Department for Education (DfE) announced the proposal in a report released on Thursday. Such a tool would “[enable] better matching between the needs of employers and the skills available in the workforce”, it said.

The project, which could be developed over 18 months, will define jobs via a combination of core skills, skills areas, skills groups and occupational skills and tasks into a system known as the “standard skills classification” (SSC). Defining jobs in that granular detail and in one system would “generate positive economic benefits” by pushing efficiency and adaptability in the training system, the DfE said.

It also said that the new system would help employers to be “more innovative and flexible” and “enhance employment opportunities” by making it easier to progress within work.

Skills classifications are available in other countries but adapting them for use in the UK would previously have been a “slow and prohibitively expensive process”, the DfE’s report said.

Recent advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) tools “present a timely opportunity to combine and refine the best of the existing provision, adapting it to our needs to develop the world’s best classification of skills”.

Currently, the system to assess skills in the UK is “fragmented and deficient”, while the language used to define skills needed for jobs is “inconsistent and unnecessarily complicated”, and sometimes does not relate directly to the UK jobs market.

The classification tool would include information from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s occupational standards and the National Careers Service with O*NET, a free US tool developed to help people develop their careers.

The DfE would also use information from the European Union’s career development tool, the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations framework.

A beta version of the classification could be available in six months for testing and assessment.

As part of the SSC, the DfE would develop around 30 “skills areas” which it defined as “broad skill domains that relate to most occupations” such as making decisions or solving problems. 

A job would also have a number of skills groups assigned to it, which the DfE defined as “intermediate skills domains”. These might include the ability to diagnose health conditions or disorders. The DfE is proposing to develop around 300 of them.

On top of that it will develop around 2,000 “occupational skills” which would “relate to a small number of occupations”, such as the ability to diagnose neural or psychological disorders.

A job would have occupational tasks assigned to it. An example would be the ability to identify psychological, emotional or behavioural issues, and to successfully diagnose disorders.

The DfE said the resource would make it easier for local authorities to “articulate clearly” to training providers which skills are needed in the local area and which ones could be needed in the future. 

Employers could use the SSC to create a long-term skills plan to “quantify and prioritise skill shortages”, and to recruit workers based on their skills more efficiently.

The DfE said job seekers would also be able to figure out what their transferable skills are, look at their career possibilities and see where they have skills gaps which need filling.

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  1. Is the same brain connected to both the left and right hand?

    Report states that LEPs are one of the target domains for testing.

    Chancellor committed to defunding LEPs in the March budget and they received their last funding payment in June.