Spring Budget: skills focus must be a priority

Spring Budget: skills focus must be a priority

With the Spring Budget fast approaching, leading global talent solutions provider, WilsonHCG, has highlighted the three areas that need to be prioritised by the Government in order to boost the strength of the labour market.

These areas of focus include:
o A reform of the Apprenticeship Levy to prevent funds from going unused
o Better support for the flexible workforce to boost access to skills
o Renewed investment in skills development that meets the real needs of UK employers

As Craig Sweeney, EVP of Global Strategic Talent Solutions at WilsonHCG, explains, prioritising these key areas would realign the workforce with the requirements of the modern employment world, as well as helping to tackle skills shortages and boost UK productivity:

“The upcoming Spring Budget presents the ideal opportunity to boost and adapt labour market policies so they are more closely aligned to the needs of the modern workforce. It’s clear that the Apprenticeship Levy requires major reform; fewer 19-25-year-olds are choosing to work as apprentices and providing a greater degree of flexibility, as well as broadening access to funding, would help to attract a wider range of individuals to consider this employment route. Perhaps more importantly, though, it would support employers who are being charged for the Levy, but are unable to use it. One solution could be to offer incentives to employers that provide apprenticeships for workers outside these brackets, which could enable more people to get back into the workforce and help support several industries which are facing skills shortages.”

“In a similar vein, we would also like to see better support for the flexible workforce as more professionals take on gig-work and ‘side hustles’ to not only tackle the cost-of-living crisis, but also adapt to the new world of work. Up to now, the core focus of the Government has been on how to tax flexible workers fairly, rather than how they could offer better support to boost the flexible labour market. Many industries that rely on this segment of the workforce have faced the biggest economic challenges – like hospitality – and offering tax breaks, specifically around VAT, would free up investment that could be redirected into the workforce, particularly with national living wage changes on the horizon.”

“Investment into skills development is long overdue, something that has to be prioritised if the UK is to keep pace with other nations. Most important is investing in the skills that employers need and the Government has failed to listen to their asks for decades. And while there is a bigger reform required in how we educate our future workforce, for now, we need to think about the rapidly changing nature of jobs over the next decade with the advancement of generative AI.”

“Focusing on skills development doesn’t just benefit young people, but all areas of the workforce, including those aged 55 and over who have the desire to keep working and are looking for a career change, particularly in light of the rising retirement age. We have had a big push on STEM skills due to shortages and that feels like an area for further investment.

However, I suspect a new ‘STEM’ like shortage will come in roles which need true personal interaction, empathy and creativity.”


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