The government is seeking to build an economy that works for everyone. As we leave the European Union, we will need to ensure that our country can compete in a global economy, and the government has set goals of boosting living standards, growth and productivity, and addressing deeply engrained regional inequalities. However, England’s adult skills system is ill-equipped to deliver this, or to address the trends that will affect our economy between now and 2030.

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Our economy is set to change significantly between now and 2030. In the past, policymakers in England have left decisions on training to the market, but this system has neither delivered the quantity nor the quality of training that we need, and it has failed the people and the places that need it most. Many of the problems with the adult skills system stem from England’s relatively ‘hands-off’ approach to vocational training, including low training standards and a reluctance to intervene in the quantity or quality of training used and delivered by employers.

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A shift to a more innovative, higher skilled economy that works for everyone and can help us compete in a global economy will require far more focus on how the skills of the adult working population are being developed and utilised in the workplace. This report reviews the evidence, and recommends that the government expands the apprenticeship levy into a wider skills levy and creates a regional skills fund to invest in the lowest-skilled areas.