Last reviewed 5 August 2022

In its latest report, the UK’s spending watchdog has examined whether the Government has an effective approach to enhancing workforce skills.

Developing Workforce Skills for a Strong Economy, published by the National Audit Office (NAO) and available here, focuses on the work of the Department for Education (DfE) although it also considers other contributors to supporting skills development.

This report covers:

  • the workforce skills system (Part One)

  • the scale of the skills challenge that the Government faces (Part Two)

  • Government’s understanding of workforce skills needs (Part Three)

  • how well the Government is supporting the development of workforce skills (Part Four).

“Having a sufficiently skilled workforce is critical to the country’s economic success and to achieving wider Government aims such as greater equality of opportunity,” the NAO notes. “Government, led by the DfE, has strengthened its approach in recent years. It has taken sensible steps to deepen its understanding, improve its oversight and work more coherently to address this priority.”

However, the report goes on, the skills challenge that the Government is facing has grown significantly, with key indicators going in the wrong direction. Employers’ investment in workforce training has declined, as have participation in Government-funded skills programmes and the programmes’ impact on productivity.

The NAO concludes that the Government needs to be much more effective than it has been in the past at helping to provide the skills the country needs or there is a risk that, despite greater activity and its good intent, the current approach may be no more successful than previous interventions in supporting workforce skills development.