At the same time there is an acute shortage of young people being taught skills for jobs where there are shortages, according to new research by the Local Government Association.
The association claims that, despite the recession, there is a need to recruit many more electricians, plumbers, engineers and environmental officers than the system is creating.
According to the LGA, last year more than 94,000 people completed hair and beauty courses, despite there being just 18,000 new jobs in the sector, meaning there were five people qualified for every job. Of these, more than 60% – 57,000 people – were 16 to 18 years old.
Similarly, more than double the number of people were trained to work in hospitality, sport and leisure than there were jobs advertised.
“This is simple stuff which other countries manage to get right,” said Peter Box, chairman of the LGA’s economy and transport board. “We are teaching too many young people the wrong skills, and we can’t go on pretending that all courses are intrinsically the same and have the same prospects. Too many courses are effectively leading young people nowhere, while there are skill shortages in other areas.”
Applications to work in media were also heavily oversubscribed, with colleges training more than 83,000 people to fill 65,000 jobs in broadcasting, journalism and public relations.
But last year fewer than 40,000 people trained to fill around 72,000 new jobs in the building and engineering trades. Similarly, in the construction sector 123,000 people were trained for 275,000 advertised jobs – more than two jobs for every qualified person.
The LGA, which says as many as 17% of job vacancies in England are now directly attributable to skills shortages, claims there was also an inadequate supply of trained textile designers, accountants and skilled workers for the car and environmental industries.
It blames a huge “skills mismatch” on a further education system that sees college funding based on studying and passing qualifications rather than job outcomes. As a result, tens of thousands of students are steered on to popular courses that they can easily pass but which are unlikely to help them find employment.
David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Failure to get this right is not only disastrous for young people, but for taxpayers too. Young people who are trying to get on the career ladder arefinding themselves without a job and potentially falling into long-term unemployment. This can have scarring effects that last a lifetime and have a huge cost to the taxpayer in welfare and benefits.”
Basildon has a huge oversupply of hair and beauty skills, while Nottingham has too many hospitality staff and travel agents. In Cambridge there is a massive undersupply of trained construction workers such as roofers and plumbers.
“A nationally driven one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work,” Simmonds said.
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