Improving education and skills are of crucial importance for the Government, for employers, for individuals and for the wider UK economy. The Royal Academy of Engineering today urged the Government to pursue a three-point plan in response to the Leitch Review of Skills: focus on basic skills, close the funding gap between sixth forms and FE colleges and raise the proportion of people qualified to degree level or the vocational equivalent. Commenting in advance of the publication of the Leitch Review of Skills, Richard Wilson, Director of Communications at The Academy, said:

“There have been many improvements in education in recent years. However, education remains the weak flank of the UK economy. In 2004, just over a tenth of the workforce had no qualifications. Skill shortages and skill gaps hold businesses back. The Leitch Review of Skills will crystallise the scale of the challenge that the UK faces in improving its education and skills base. The Government’s response to the Review must include three key elements.”

“The Government must focus like a laser beam on improving standards of literacy and numeracy. Currently, just 44 per cent of 16 year olds achieve five GCSEs at grade C or above, including in English and Mathematics. Until we drive up performance at GCSE level, too much of the post-16 education budget will be spent on remedial education and too many students will be unable to progress to further education and training.”

“The Government must also continue to close the funding gap between sixth forms and FE colleges that currently acts in favour of sixth forms. FE accounts for the majority of A-level provision, over 50 per cent of vocational qualifications at all ages and 10 per cent of higher education. FE colleges must be adequately funded if they are to deliver high quality education, including the new Engineering Specialised Diploma.”

“We must also raise the proportion of people qualified to degree level or the equivalent. Already over a third of employees in the aerospace industry are qualified to this level. UK manufacturing and engineering will need increasing numbers of employees qualified to degree level or the vocational equivalent. Our future as a nation depends on educating and training a highly skilled, well remunerated workforce that can create high value added products and services.”

Richard Wilson concluded:

“Just because the UK faces a skills challenge does not mean that we will rise to meet it. The Leitch Review of Skills provides the country with yet another opportunity to tackle deep seated educational problems. We must seize the challenge – not dodge it.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Richard Wilson at The Royal Academy of Engineering