February 2014

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Written by Elizabeth Eyre on 1 February 2014 in Magazine

Welcome to the second issue of TJ in 2014.

Skills, particularly those obtained (or not) by young people in the UK, have been on the national agenda once again, with government ministers, including former GMTV-presenter-turned-employment-minister Esther McVey and  Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare Liz Truss, lining up to lament young people’s failings (which include, apparently, an inability to turn up at work on time) and to urge them to lower their employment expectations.

No doubt we will continue to hear more about this as the green shoots of recovery (hopefully) continue to push up through the mire of global recession, and employers look for more people with the skills they need to fill vacancies. The International Monetary Fund has revised its estimate of this year’s UK growth up to 2.4 per cent (from 1.9 per cent) and, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics as TJ went to press, the total number of people out of work in Britain fell by 167,000 to 2.32m in the three months to November.

Skills, training and – in particular – the relationship between the education system and the workplace will,
I think, continue to be a topic for discussion throughout this year and L&D professionals should be taking an active role in promoting its importance both within the workplace and within society
in general.

It’s far too important an issue to be left to politicans. Although, some of them seem to be genuinely interested in the skills debate as a vital part of the wider conversation about this country’s economic performance and how to improve it. Regular TJ contributor Martyn Sloman was called before a Lords select committee just before Christmas, to talk about the issue of youth employment across Europe. You can read about his experience – and how the committee members’ willingness to “ask the hard questions” gave him some hope that the skills situation might be addressed this year with the seriousness it deserves – on our website, at www.trainingjournal.com/blog/articles-blogs-asking-the-hard-questions/.

 I really do hope he is right. The levels of youth unemployment, not just in the UK but across Europe, really are depressing, as is the willingness of certain politicians to villify young people as work-shy Walter Mitty types who lack even the skills to get out of bed in the morning and who should be getting entry-level jobs, not expecting to walk into £100k-a-year ones. None of this is helpful – it doesn’t do anything to address the underlying issues of why employers are not taking on young people and it does nothing to make young people feel as if they are valued members of our society. What we need this year, rather than this political grandstanding, is proper, meaningful debate about what we are actually going to do about it.

Will you, at the heart of the skills agenda, take part in that debate? I hope so. It’s much too important an issue to ignore.

Elizabeth Eyre, Editor



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