Until the UK tackles its growing skills shortages, the nation's economic recovery will hang in the balance.
This was the message of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) at its autumn conference, held in Birmingham yesterday (October 15th).
In an updated version of its pre-election manifesto for employment and skills, the industry body insisted that without continued investment in skills, the UK will not be able to achieve sustained economic growth.
AELP said this should include the provision of training programmes for those currently out of work, which would focus on early intervention and personalised delivery in order to ensure that individuals of all ages can contribute to and share in the UK's economic success.
It added that policymakers have to also support the upskilling of adults already in work through the apprenticeship programme, creating new opportunities for young people to learn and develop in a professional setting.
AELP also welcomed recent commitments from the main political parties to expand the scheme during the next parliament, but cautioned that their goals "can only be achieved if apprenticeships are offered across all ages, all sectors and at all levels".
This drive should be accompanied by improved integration of the various programmes and initiatives offered to young people at present, the industry body added, ensuring that all schemes put equal emphasis on core employability skills and work experience - values already embedded in apprenticeships and traineeships.
Stewart Segal, chief executive of AELP, commented: "Training providers will be encouraged that party leaders have placed apprenticeships among their highest priorities for the next parliament and we believe that growing the programme will ... make a significant contribution to answering employers' skills needs as the economy continues to recover."
He added, however, that other actions were still required in order to "underpin a sustainable economic recovery and strengthen social inclusion".