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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Boosting skill levels not enough to tackle UK's productivity problem

Reacting to today's Green Paper on industrial strategy IPPR calls for more investment in & use of skills by employers

In response to the government’s announcement that the Prime Minister is using the first regional Cabinet meeting on Monday (23 January) to launch a modern Industrial Strategy, setting out plans to enable everyone to develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future, Clare McNeil, IPPR Associate Director for Work and Families said:

"The Prime Minister is right to argue that enabling everyone to develop the skills they need is crucial as we look to a post-Brexit future. However, if the government is serious about improving productivity it will not be enough to boost skill levels alone - more will need to be done to improve the investment in and use of skills by employers.

"The past decade has seen significant improvements in the skills levels of the population, but over the same period, productivity has stagnated, growing by just 1%, pay has stalled, and one in five employees are still stuck in low-paid work. Too few employers are making the best use of their employees skills to improve companies' performance.

"Two-thirds of the workforce of 2030 have already left full time education, so the workplace and opportunities for lifetime learning are key. It is vital that as part of its industrial strategy the government introduces reforms that will both encourage employers to invest in their workforce, and support them to make better use of their skills as part of a high-productivity competitive strategy."

Notes to editors

As part of a three year programme on the UK’s skills system, IPPR will be publishing proposals for transforming the adult skills system to ensure the UK is ready for a post-Brexit future. A paper on the 9th February will argue that the government should set three goals for adult skills policy if it is to deliver the national vision for a more ambitious, productive and inclusive economy:

  • Improving the investment in and utilisation of skills by employers
  • Increasing the availability of high quality specialist vocational provision offered by training providers, and;
  • Supporting industries and communities facing economic decline to deal with workplace change and adapt to the demands of the global economy


Sofie Jenkinson, 07981023031,
Kieren Walters, 07921 403651,