Getting our wires crossed

The UK’s education and training system as well as our social culture continue to fail to connect with the needs of our young people and our economy.

by Guy Lane, Consultant

There has been a great deal of public discussion around the reliance of the UK economy on immigrants. Boris Johnson’s narcissistic retort has been to blame employers for a reliance on cheap labour from abroad. This is typically disingenuous.

The current, and preceding governments, have consistently failed to make a proper connection between education and the needs of our economy.

Notably, Tony Blair’s regime was obsessed with reclassifying every college and art school as a ‘university’ and increasing the undergraduate population exponentially.

This has resulted in:

  • a decline in traditional apprenticeships
  • further disconnection between courses and the needs of employees
  • graduates being saddled with debts of more than £50k and not being able to find a job that meets their aptitudes and expectations
  • degrees becoming debased currency
  • a decline in practical training, notably in the property and construction sectors, as traditional blue collar families have been seduced by the notion that a university degree represents both social and economic advancement

Youth unemployment remains high (498,000 people aged 16-24 in the UK, per House of Commons Library report) and employers remain frustrated.

The welfare state, which has done so much to help people in need since the Second World War, has also served to disincentivise the indigenous population to train up in essential skills and crafts.

Furthermore the millennial culture, social media platforms, and emphasis on ‘work life balance’ has encouraged an entire generation to seek instant gratification and undermined its capacity to engage in tough training at low pay levels to acquire practical skills that can give them a successful career.

What other reasons could there really be for the fact that the UK is still reliant on imported skills, as well as willingness to work?

So if Boris wants the UK the indigenous population to fill the skills and training gap he needs to change our society by:

  1. Reminding everyone that young people can, and usually do, succeed by training up for real jobs rather than doing second rate degrees that leave them broke and out of work;
  2. Restoring apprenticeships
  3. Placing emphasis on the UK’s productive economy and providing incentives for employers to train up young people inhouse;
  4. Re-establishing technical colleges and diplomas and shifting perceptions so that young people can once again learn practical trades as a source of professional pride;
  5. Dispensing with the snobbery associated with ‘white collar’ as opposed to ‘blue collar’ occupations;
  6. Altering the welfare system so that young people can continue receiving benefits so long as they are learning practical skills.


Excerpt from

The UK Has Biggest Skills Gap Amongst Young People

The UK is reported to have the widest skills gap between young people not in education, employment and training (NEETs), and their employed counterparts, in a recent 22-country survey carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Overall, (based on data from 2012) the literacy gap in the UK was at 12.6%, which is almost twice the reported average of 6.5%. The next lowest was Norway, with an 11.2% gap, and from the same data, Japan had the smallest gap of just 0.3%.

It found that a huge portion of 16-29 year olds are leaving education without the necessary literacy or problem-solving skills required to enter employment. This means many will struggle when it comes time to move from school into work, and can easily drop off the radar, whilst their more educated peers overtake them in terms of job and education opportunities.

The survey also noted that the skills gap may not be the only reason the NEETs will face difficulties when looking for employment. The OECD also that many of these young people were not actually looking for work and had disengaged with education and the labour market.

The government published figures last week that showed one in eight young people are now classed as NEET.

Getting these young people to integrate with a job market they feel completely disassociated from, can be difficult, especially when they lack the skills to enter traditional further education routes that might help them.

And from

Certain trades in construction are suffering from a lack of new workers entering the field. We are working with federations and trade associations, colleges and employers to try out new ways to get more college leavers ready to enter those professions.

The challenge facing industry

There has been a sharp drop in the number of college leavers entering the construction industry, particularly in certain trades and the homebuilding sector.

While there are many new learners at college learning these trades, most of them don’t end up in those professions after their studies. For example, only 19% of college leavers who did a painting and decorating course go on to work in construction. The main reasons for this are:

  • many of them aren’t prepared for the world of work. Employers as a result, are reluctant to take them on as they can’t be relied upon on site.
  • many of them don’t get onsite practical experience during their studies. Consequently, they don’t have the skills to work independently on site.
  • the quality of training they get and assessment they undergo are variable. While they have qualifications on paper, it doesn’t always translate into good quality technical skills on the job.
  • they aren’t equipped to be self-employed so early on in their careers. They therefore can’t compete for construction projects in the same way as experienced self-employed tradespeople.
  • there isn’t a continuing professional development (CPD) programme which lets them keep up their skills or get skills with new materials that are being introduced into the industry.

For more information please contact

Karee Wilkin
PA to Costas Pieri, Founder and MD
OSP Group Ltd

About OSP Group Ltd

OSP is a specialist recruitment company providing a level of service and quality of personnel that give clients competitive advantage and ensures business operations run on time and within budget. OSP has built a reputation for sourcing, training and motivating the people UK needs for the construction, transport & logistics and industrial sectors.

OSP Group is based in Gillingham, Kent and has offices in London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Liverpool and Glasgow. Clients include construction, transport & freight and industrial companies in across the UK.