09/09/2014 09:10 BST | Updated 08/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Global Competitiveness: Good But Room for Improvement

The World Economic Forum revealed its "Global Competitiveness Report" last week and it was good news for the UK. We moved up from 10th to 9th place over last year - not bad out of 144 countries. However, we can do better.

The annual report ranks the wealth and productivity of a country, and shows how good its long-term economic policies are. But even though we may perceive ourselves as forward-thinking, we aren't beating the likes of Singapore, Japan, and The Netherlands.

So what's the secret for reaching the top?

It's about people

The highest-ranked countries invest in people, helping them gain the skills they need to make a difference now and in the future. And that requires close collaboration between employers and schools.

The Government also has an important role to play. It must continue to make skills a priority if we are to remain competitive.

One of the reasons that Switzerland ranked first was its dual vocational and education training system, which heavily promotes apprenticeships.

What impact does it have? Only 8% of Swiss youth are unemployed, compared to 16.9% in the UK. It's no wonder other countries want to copy this system. As the WEF said, it's an "effective remedy to the problem of youth unemployment."

We must do similarly - especially with young people's futures at risk.

It's not all about the youth

But what about developing people on the job? These days, there's no such thing as a job for life. Roles are evolving and people need new skills to meet the ever-changing needs of their employers. If they have the right skills they can add value to their businesses, which in turn benefits the wider economy.

As the economy strengthens, employers throughout the UK - and indeed the world - are investing more in developing their staff. But we need this to be business as usual if it is going to make a long-term impact on our global competitiveness.

The resources are out there to make this a reality - and thanks to technology, learning is not confined to only face-to-face. New learning technologies such as apps and online courses allow people to also learn whenever and wherever they want.

And it's a cost-effective approach. One of our customers saved £1 million in one year through e-learning, largely from not needing face-to-face trainers.

Onwards and upwards

As I said before, 9th place isn't anything to be ashamed of. And we should be doubly proud to see how we've improved over the past year.

However, we need to build on this momentum, and skilled employees are clearly the key to innovation and lasting prosperity. It's about developing the workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow.