UK Economy Held Back By Underuse Of Workers' Skills, Think Tank Says
Companies in the UK are failing to full use the skills in their workforce, according to a report from the Work Foundation, which said that economic productivity and performance are being undermined.
While the government has focused on addressing an apparent lack of skills in young people looking to enter the workforce, the failure to give workers autonomy, career progression or support - particularly at the lower end of the labour market - creates a drag on the economy and reduces social mobility.
"We're not querying the fact that there are skills gaps in the economy," Paul Sissons, the report's author, told the Huffington Post UK.
"There has been a lot of public and private sector investment in skills, on the whole the population is becoming more skilled. What we're querying is whether we're using those skills in the most efficient and beneficial way. People have more skills, but are they able to use those skills in the workplace?"
The report urges government to work with the private sector to become better at designing jobs that offer more freedom and allow for more individual development.
A Business Department spokesman said: "The highest performing companies are those that use the talents of their staff to their fullest extent. By giving employers more control of how vocational training is designed and delivered, the Government is creating a stronger and more flexible skills system to help and encourage firms to develop the potential of their employees.
"Unprecedented investment in apprenticeships and increased emphasis on advanced training will give more employees the opportunity to continue learning throughout their professional lives."
Sissons focused on the retail and hospitality sectors, where he found numerous examples of "very narrow job design, and within that there's no real room for discretion or creativity… things are very tightly controlled from the centre - the way the stores are laid out, the stock control, the pricing and with no real level of discretion or autonomy."
"A lot of our competitor nations have national level skills utilisation policies," Sissons said, pointing to Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.
"Clearly there is an enormous need at the moment to create jobs," he added. "But what we need is not just more jobs, but better designed jobs that encourage more autonomy, responsibility, initiative and progression for the workforce."