New research shows that one in three of the lowest paid workers are still among the lowest earners 14 years later. This presents a challenge to business to show that there are enough opportunities for workers to get on and increase their living standards through work. At the same time, many businesses are struggling to find workers with the higher level skills that they need. The CBI believes that better vocational education – apprenticeships or courses taken while working – is the solution to both of these challenges.
Their report, A better off Britain, calls on businesses to create ladders for low-paid workers to progress into higher-paid work. It argues that half of jobs will require higher level skills (post-18 education) by 2022, but too many workers don’t know which skills businesses really need, or how to get them. The CBI wants businesses to work with colleges and universities to create opportunities for workers to gain new skills while continuing to work – learning while earning – because it isn’t possible for workers with bills to pay to take extended periods off work to improve their skills.
For young people this means making sure that a high quality apprenticeship can be as good an alternative as the academic route of A-levels and then university. But there also need to be clear ways for people who have already left education to get these skills too. That’s why the CBI is calling for firms not just to work with colleges to create ladders into higher skills, but to commit to making developing staff a priority for the business, and to give line managers the tools to make this happen.
The CBI also highlights steps for government to take including:
- Giving workers the confidence to study part-time by reducing their fear of fees or unaffordable loan commitments
- Launching a new government strategy for adult retraining
- Changing the skills funding system so that colleges are paid for helping workers get a job and increase their pay rather than just for completing a course.
 Analysis by Dr Abigail McKnight, published in CBI, A better off Britain, November 2014