University must provide clear lessons for productivity

Jobs in manufacturing are disappearing. The economy as a whole may avoid recession but a TUC survey of manufacturing’s heartland shows jobs disappearing at an accelerating rate. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has shed new light on the productivity gap between the UK and the rest of Europe, with its […]

Jobs in manufacturing are disappearing. The economy as a whole may avoid recession but a TUC survey of manufacturing’s heartland shows jobs disappearing at an accelerating rate.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has shed new light on the productivity gap between the UK and the rest of Europe, with its finding that the gap can almost entirely be accounted for by differences in skill levels.

Yet paradoxically, the Engineering Employers’ Federation regions report that even though their members are laying people off, they are still experiencing difficulty in filling vacancies for more highly skilled staff. This would surely be impossible in the culture of lifelong learning envisaged by the Government, which the University for Industry has been set up to create.

Taken together these facts give an idea of the task facing the UfI.

The university’s statements this week that competitiveness will be one of its key themes is encouraging. At the same time it is worrying that, according to the EEF, few people, employers or employees, appear to have a clear idea of what the UfI is all about. However, once it is explained, the EEF says, people are very positive.

Admittedly, the UfI is only just beginning to embark on this phase of its development, and there is still a year to go before it will be fully operational. But there is a big task ahead to get businesses involved to make sure the learning materials for which the UfI will be a broker meet the needs of employers and employees, both in content and how they are delivered.

Surveys such as those from the TUC and NIESR this week underline only too clearly that the UfI cannot afford to fail.