Skills or Bust

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New report from City & Guilds reveals skills are crucial for economic upturn.

As the Government tackles the country’s public finances and budget deficit, almost two thirds of employers (63 per cent) argue that work-related education and training will play a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery, according to ‘The Skills Economy – the new framework for prosperity’ a new report from the UK’s leading vocational education organisation, City & Guilds.

The survey of over 1,200 employers across 26 industry areas in England^ reveals that businesses see functional skills as a top priority for supporting the country’s future prosperity. Nine in ten (90 per cent) employers view vocationally trained staff as vital to the success of their business, and two-thirds (65 per cent) of all employers claim that vocational education delivers the practical skills essential for today’s dynamic economy.

Business managers argue practical work experience is more valuable than academic study, with specialist industry skills offering immediate advantages in the workplace over a university education. A significant six in ten (60 per cent) employers believe that the biggest benefit of people with vocational qualifications over graduates is that they already have the skills and experience to work for their business from day one.

A further two-fifths (42 per cent) of bosses currently without vocationally qualified staff also acknowledge that they are as well-qualified for positions at their company as graduates without vocational training.

There is general recognition that skilled workers give businesses a competitive edge, both on an industry and international level. Seven in ten (68 per cent) employers believe that their vocationally qualified employees make them more competitive in their industry, whilst three quarters (74 per cent) of all employers agree that work-related skills are vital to ensure the UK can compete in the changing global economy.

The future is bright for skilled workers as seven in ten (67 per cent) employers rely on those staff who have received foundation learning to give them the skills they need for the future.

The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), the new framework for creating and accrediting qualifications, aims to deliver the vocational skills employers need today and tomorrow.

City & Guilds explains what QCF means for employers and their staff. It offers a breadth of high quality qualifications to suit today’s business needs and train learners to the highest industry standards.

Chris Jones, Director General and CEO, City & Guilds said: ‘Our research reveals the extent to which UK plc recognises the vital importance of skills through vocational learning for the country’s future economic prosperity and global competitiveness.

‘As the introduction of QCF puts the spotlight on vocational qualifications, City & Guilds is committed to creating a wide range of high quality qualifications that will equip individuals with the right skills and training needed to support the country’s recovery as well as bring clarity to the changeover for employers, learners and training centres alike.

‘Ultimately vocational qualifications will become even more relevant to employers’ skills needs and the changing face of UK industry, as well as more flexible and transparent for learners’ career progression.’

David Fairhurst, Chief People Officer for McDonald's said: ‘At McDonald’s, we don’t believe that people leave the world of education behind them when they enter the world of work and we have a long-term commitment to offering all of our employees access to vocational training opportunities. I am pleased to see that this new research by City & Guilds provides concrete endorsement to the importance of this form of work-based training. We offer nationally recognised qualifications like apprenticeships at McDonald's, which give our employees both the practical and relevant skills they need to improve their confidence and competence in the workplace. Delivering our training in this way is good for our business, good for our people, and as research like this shows, it is good for the wider economy too.’

Further research findings include:

  • Vocational workers have staying power: Over half (55 per cent) of employers say that employees with vocational qualifications are more likely to remain in their company and progress through the business than those without.
  • Vocational training for the 21st Century: Almost seven in ten (65 per cent) bosses believe vocational qualifications cover a wide range of emerging industries and not just ‘traditional trades’ such as plumbing and carpentry.

City & Guilds’ new qualifications cover everything from new environmental technologies including installing solar panels and domestic micro wind turbines to a Level 2 in Understanding HIV and AIDS for GPs, nurses, police and voluntary workers.

  • Supporting standards for skills: Six in ten (61 per cent) employers of vocationally-qualified staff believe their business would benefit from the development of an industry standard to create a benchmark for skills.
  • Worth their weight in gold: Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of bosses believe the benefits to their business of training apprentices far outweigh the costs. A further 70 per cent rely on apprenticeships programmes to give them the skilled workers they need for the future. 56 per cent of business managers say that a high proportion of their apprentices go on to management positions within the company.

As the UK’s largest vocational education organisation, City & Guilds aims to inspire young people to realise their career aspirations and potential. With over 130 years heritage and expertise, City & Guilds is leading a new kind of talent revolution to ensure the workforce of tomorrow has the right training to succeed and lead in tomorrow’s fast paced economy.

For more information about QCF and ‘The Skills Economy’ report (which will be available online from Monday, 19 July), visit

Notes to Editors:

1. ^Research was conducted online by Populus amongst 1,221 employers across 26 industry areas in England between 27 May and 7 June 2010. 611 of these were employers of vocationally-qualified staff and 610 were not. 232 respondents ran an apprenticeship scheme within their business.
2. City & Guilds ( is the UK's leading vocational education organisation. Approximately 1.8 million people are currently working towards a City & Guilds qualification in the UK and Ireland.
3. QCF is the new government framework which sets out how all regulated vocational qualifications are structured, titled and quality assured. QCF is replacing the existing National Qualifications Framework across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Over the next nine months all remaining NQF qualifications will be reviewed and redeveloped for the QCF.
4. City & Guilds has already developed more QCF qualifications than any other awarding body, with over 700 QCF Awards and Certificates. By early 2011, it is expected that all vocational qualifications (approximately 6,000) will be accredited to the QCF.
5. The City & Guilds Group operates from three major hubs: London (servicing Europe, the Caribbean and Americas), Johannesburg (servicing Africa), and Singapore (servicing Asia, Australia and New Zealand).
6. The City & Guilds Group comprises the Institute of Leadership & Management (management and leadership qualifications), City & Guilds Land Based Services (land based qualifications) and the Centre for Skills Development (CSD works to improve the policy and practice of vocational education and training worldwide).


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Melanie Dias
Hillsand Knowlton
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