The Leitch review of skills in the UK

View Latest News Publish Date: 14-Dec-2005

The Leitch review of skills in the UK

Lord Leitch, publishing his interim report, said:

"Skills present a formidable challenge and a brilliant opportunity. They matter fundamentally for the economic and social health of the UK. Despite recent improvement, there is consensus that we need to be much more ambitious and a clear message that the UK must raise its game. This is an urgent task. The scale of the challenge is daunting. Delivering current plans will be difficult. Even then, it will not be enough to supply the skills that employers, employees and our nation needs in order to advance. The UK must become world class on skills - for all of our sakes."

The Report finds that, over the last decade, the skills profile of the UK has improved because of an excellent higher education system; reforms to vocational training and an increasingly effective schools system. But the UK has much further to go:


over a third of adults of working age in the UK do not have a basic school-leaving qualification;

five million adults have no qualifications at all; and

one in six adults do not have the literacy skills expected of an 11 year old and half do not have these levels of functional numeracy.

The UK is in a strong position with a stable and growing economy and world-leading employment rates. However, UK productivity continues to trail many international comparators and poor skills continue to have a direct effect on social inequality.

Looking ahead to 2020, existing targets mean that skill levels are set to improve with significant reductions in people without qualifications and increases in adults holding a degree. However, the Report concludes that, even though these ambitious targets will be very difficult to achieve, the UK's skills levels will continue to compare poorly in an increasingly globalised world. There is a risk that this will undermine the UK's long-term prosperity.

The Review analyses some ambitious scenarios for 2020 that tackle the stock of low skilled adults without qualifications, invest more in intermediate skills or further increase the proportion of adults with a degree. All show significant economic and social benefits resulting from higher productivity or employment levels through improving skills.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, highlighted the importance of this report, he said:

"To become world leaders in any sector we must become world leaders in education. All of us know that as global restructuring moves mass production to other areas, the UK's future success will be founded upon high levels of skills. I thank Lord Leitch for this work. With these conclusions a national debate will lead to decisions about our vocational training goals for the future."

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