This report explores why employers do not train. We show that a lack of investment in training is rooted in 'low-road' competitive strategies that do not require a well-skilled workforce. While often profitable, these business models have implications for employees, consumers and the state.

Our goal is to support and encourage more firms to adopt competitive strategies that support higher job quality, and at the same time improve the dynamism, innovativeness and resilience of English firms. The weakness of the institutional fabric in England makes this a challenging agenda to pursue.

We advocate an evolutionary approach to reform that responds to the unique contexts in different sectors and locations, and so a key feature is likely to be variability, from one place or sector to another.

Specifically, the report recommends:

  • Democratise sector skills councils, to include boards made up of one-third employer representatives, one-third employee representatives and one-third representatives of the state and other stakeholder interests.
  • Devolve decision-making power to SSCs to determine strategic funding priorities for skills in their sector and control a combined growth, innovation and training budget.
  • Establish local skills boards at the level of local enterprise partnerships.
  • A something-for-something deal with employers to ensure membership of skills boards is mandatory but beneficial.
  • A new role for further education colleges to deliver more high-level off-the-job training.
  • A focus on high-quality workforce training and development, with qualifications developed by industry stakeholders.
  • Funding investment to ensure that all adults have access to a high-quality basic education, and other sources of funding are found to pay for the proposed workforce training and business development services.