Ufi's response to the BEIS Select Committee - Post-pandemic economic growth

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in the House of Commons recently ran a public call for evidence on post-pandemic growth and the UK labour market. The Committee wished to understand whether the UK has enough workers with the right skills in the right places to do the jobs required in our economy.

At Ufi, we see it as a core function of the UK labour market to provide the skilled people necessary for the success of the UK economy. As the UK moves out of the pandemic, economic growth will be underpinned by increasing productivity which has to come from improving the skills base of the labour market. We know that digital tools and technology present a proven means to deliver the skills system the UK needs. Well designed technology allows older people, people looking to enter or re-enter the job market and those who have not thrived in traditional education to better access training and opportunities.

In our response to the BEIS Select Committee we make three key points:

  1. The UK needs to use technology to get the right skills in the right places
    This means supporting and funding digital infrastructure, addressing digital poverty and ensuring that qualified and well-equipped teachers exist across the UK. Technology can unlock training and work opportunities for those furthest from them. By including and supporting parts of the UK labour market who are furthest from the benefits of economic growth, we can address some of the most chronic skills shortages and biggest labour market inequities.
  2. Technology is changing the workplace and it should change how we prepare for work
    Technology is changing how we are recruited, how we reskill in work and how we interact with each other in the workplace. While it is important that regulations around workers’ rights are strong, it is important that those regulations do not inhibit well developed and deployed digital tools that have the power to make the workplace more inclusive for those furthest from work and training. By giving learners agency over their own future, the right tech-based approach can reduce barriers to participation and make everyone more active participants in work.
  3. As we work for longer, technology can support how individuals and society adjust, future-proofing UK skills
    Retraining is essential for all workers, but in particular older workers and those who want to get into work, who often face the biggest risks when deciding to start retraining and have some of the most significant number of responsibilities outside of work. Flexible funding models, and tools, which empower individuals and employers to learn throughout their lives is essential. Technology can make training more accessible by reducing the financial, personal and time risks. We cannot learn all that we need in the first 18 years of our lives, we all need to retrain throughout our working lives.

Our response is supported by case studies from several Ufi supported projects and ventures operating across the UK. The relevant projects include:

A careers platform where students can experience the world of work and university before they apply.

Thrive - Career Matters
Guided support for care leavers via a skills platform, which offers personalised layers of support for learners.

Cities of Learning - The RSA
Creates new pathways into learning and employment by connecting formal, informal, and in-work learning opportunities that exist across cities via a system of digital open badges.

Sonic Jobs

Helps jobseekers, looking for employment in lower paying sectors like services and hospitality, recognise the skills that they have, find and apply for relevant high-quality jobs, and to develop new skills to improve their employability and career progression.

Digital Aspire - Digital Unite
Focuses on people with Learning Disabilities who can work but are unemployed and would like to find new roles by supporting learners to develop their digital skills and confidence.

Offers learners intensive bootcamp training for those wanting to start a career in cyber-security.

A digital platform and online community providing access to crucial care skills for the 13.5 million unpaid carers in the UK.

Each case study explores how technology can help the UK improve skills, address the productivity crisis and secure strong post-pandemic growth.

You can read the Executive Summary and recommendations below – or download the full response

Download our full response:
BEIS Select Committee Inquiry response

Executive Summary

The core function of the UK labour market is to provide the skilled people necessary for the success of the UK economy. Economic growth and increases in productivity are central to improving the lives of everyone in the UK.

UK growth has been strong in recent years because of growth in the total size of the UK labour market and despite flatling productivity. As a result of changes to immigration and the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK now has a relatively smaller pool of labour[i]. Therefore, addressing productivity is the only way to secure post-pandemic growth.

The answer to the UK’s productivity crisis can be found in addressing the UK’s skills crisis. Effective reskilling can bring a productivity uplift of up to 12% and in the next decade 90 percent of the current labour market will need to update their skills to keep pace with changes in their jobs[ii].

With at least 24% of current vacancies proving hard to fill because of skills shortages[iii], and only 10% of people who left school at 16 intending to learn in the next three years we are already seeing the risks of not addressing the skills crisis[iv]. Parts of the UK are already falling behind, and if we do not act fast enough the whole of the UK will be left behind in an increasingly competitive world.

The good news is that we have the tools to make the UK more competitive, drive innovation in key sectors of the economy and provide people with the opportunity to learn throughout their lives in a way that makes sense to each person, place, and business. Digital technology is transforming how we acquire skills and prepare for the future of work, and by giving people the skills they need the UK can address its productivity crisis and support post-pandemic economic growth.

To make this change, the UK needs a comprehensive systems-based approach to skills that is based on a modular, flexible, and tech-enabled approach to learning. We need to adopt micro credentials, improve training incentives, and reduce the risks of reskilling, in particular for older workers.

Technology, like digital badges, digital bite sized learning, and personalised mobile learning offer a tried and tested method of delivering lifelong learning that is accessible and adaptable to the lives of people across the UK. We cannot expect people to learn everything they need in the first 18 years of their life. We need to shift our mode of thinking to one that accepts and encourages lifelong learning as the default and where technology is baked into the solutions that governments, educators and businesses reach for.

Across the UK, Ufi VocTech Trust has experience developing hundreds of different projects and ventures that use technology to give people the skills they need for work. We see daily how skills development is improving productivity and giving individuals and businesses the capacity to grow out of the pandemic and into a brighter future.

Endnotes from Executive Summary:

[i] ONS, Employment in the UK, June 2022, link

[ii] McKinsey, The economic case for reskilling in the UK, November 2020, link

[iii] Department for Education, Employer Skills Survey, 2019, link

[iv] Learning and Work Institute, Adult Participation in Learning, 2021, link


To open the labour market to everyone across the UK, but particularly those furthest from the labour market, we need to fully utilise the capacity of technology to transform how we develop skills for work, retrain individuals in work and help people reskill throughout their careers.

Develop a framework for modular learning

The Government should develop a lifelong framework for modular learning, which gives people and employers the capacity to adapt and focus their learning on the skills that will make the difference. Government can do this with new digital tools and micro credentials that are more relevant to individual pieces of learning, to learners themselves, and to employers. By including micro credentials throughout A-Levels, GCSEs, BTECs, T-levels and the rest of formal learning, employers would be better able to identify learner aptitude in particular skills and learners would be better able to understand the areas they need to develop further.

Improve training and recruitment incentives for employers

Employers should be encouraged to engage learners furthest from traditional provision with recruitment and training incentives. Employers need to be encouraged to offer training opportunities to existing staff and provide training opportunities to staff who do not currently meet the job requirements. With a tight labour market, where supply of jobs vastly outstrips demand for them, employers need to become more generous in their approach to skills training.

Technology can benefit workers and workplaces

When designing changes to employment law that relate to the use of technology, Government should consult with independent organisations with expertise in workplace technology and design rules that are to the benefit of employees and employers.

Reduce the risk of re-skilling, in particular for older workers

Too many over-50s are excluded from training opportunities because of perceived and real risk or they are forced out of work by mitigatable circumstances. The Government needs to use learning technology and provide easy to access risk free and flexible financing. Government should also provide more funding for programmes in Local Authorities that support older workers with support and training that allows them to continue working while also caring for family members.

To discuss Ufi's response please contact Josh Smith, Ufi Public Affairs Manager at josh.smith@ufi.co.uk.