The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has published its Skills and Employment Manifesto, setting out ways to radically transform the systems that educate our young people, and recommendations for training our adult workforce.

Employers consistently tell us that there is a mismatch between what they are looking for in their staff, and the skills, experience and attitude offered by too many prospective candidates. The Prime Minister regularly refers to a global race, yet the BCC believes that in the 21st century, it is the countries with the most skilled workforces – both young and old – that will be the ultimate winners.

The Manifesto calls for:

  • Ensuring that ‘employability’ skills are at the heart of how schools are assessed and rated
  • Investing in quality careers education for all young people, including regular, quality contact with a variety of employers
  • Using Chambers to offer independent advice and support to SMEs to increase investment in apprenticeships and workplace training
  • Clear, universally understood  qualifications for literacy, numeracy, computing and foreign languages
  • Qualifications to be consistent and clear, to enable employers to understand an individual’s competencies
  • Tax incentives for the development of foreign language and export skills
  • All employment policy to become the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)
  • Universities to work with Chambers of Commerce to promote enterprise among a wider range of students, and to ensure university courses are relevant to future job opportunities
  • The government to give employers a choice on how they receive government funding for apprenticeships – either directly through the tax system or via their chosen training provider

Commenting, Nora Senior, President of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Skills will decide who wins and who loses in a 21st century economy – yet employers across the UK constantly say they struggle to find prospective employees, particularly those leaving education, who have the right skills to succeed in the workplace.

“Although we believe that successive governments have failed our young people by not properly equipping them for their future careers, it is time to break away from the blame game. Various organisations and sectors continue to blame each other for a lack of ‘work readiness’ among young people, but it is time for everyone to accept some responsibility, and find ways to move forward.

“The world has changed at a rapid pace. If Britain doesn’t keep up, employers who are unable to access the skills they need or those unwilling to invest in training will lose business to other firms at home and abroad, putting us at a disadvantage. Simple measures, such as investing in quality careers education, making employability a key measure for schools, and supporting interaction between pupils and local employers, will deliver more jobs and growth in the long-term.

“Government, schools, colleges and employers must all work together in the coming months and years to ensure that the UK has a workforce that is ‘fit for purpose’. Failure to do so risks consigning generation after generation to a less prosperous future.

Download a copy of the manifesto