Minister Jim Murphy
Jobseekers today are truly competing in a global labour market, and the UK will need to embrace globalisation if it wants to be successful, Jim Murphy, Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform, told delegates at the Curriculum Strategy Forum at The Open University.
“Universities have an increasingly important role to play in improving the skills base of people, especially for the 2.7 million people currently on incapacity benefit – 80 to 90% of which said they would like to work,” Jim Murphy said.
The Forum aimed to address the skills gap and look at how curriculum can be adapted and developed to meet the changing needs of employers and employees. Professor Linda Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Curriculum and Awards, said: “We are proving how flexible and responsive the University can be in the challenging marketplace and we have the right models of workplace learning to develop workforce skills.” Participants heard how a hospital cleaner had been able to gain a nursing qualification through the University’s innovative work-based nursing programme
Around 75% of Open University students are employed, and they can implement the benefits of learning immediately. Skills shortages are the biggest obstacle to business growth, and a recent CBI/KPMG report stated that three-quarters (74%) of firms in London reported problems finding skilled staff, up from three-fifths (61%) a year ago and half (49%) in January 2005.
Jim Murphy believes that every individual should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and ambition and to progress in a career. He praised The Open University for transforming the lives of millions of people but said that there were still many more people to reach through learning opportunities. He particularly encouraged employers and educational organisations to consider what more they could do to support those with mental health problems, learning disabilities and the homeless and encourage them to take up these opportunities.
“A radical reform of skills is necessary, and we need to consider the long-term sustainability of work. Too many people are trapped between a low-paying job and claiming benefit, and accessible training complemented by employer responsibility for training, should allow all people to fulfil their potential,” the minister concluded.
CBI/KPMG’s London Business Survey is conducted twice a year to monitor the views of business in London as a place to do business. 126 businesses took part, representing almost half a million employees in the capital.