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Skills system failing London businesses and trainees

Released on 16 May 2013

London’s skills system is training too many people in trades such as hairdressing and health and safety, for which there are too few jobs, according to the employment spokesman for London’s boroughs.

Speaking at a joint event between Barclays and London Councils, Cllr Peter John, Executive Member for Skills and Employment at London Councils, argued that the government should take on board the recommendations of a new report by London Councils and devolve skills powers to local authorities. 

Cllr Peter John said: “the current system is letting down Londoners, employers and skills providers alike. It is producing too many hairdressers and health and safety officers, for whom there is little work, and too few trainees in the areas employers are crying out for, such as digital design and marketing”.

He continued that while skills training is not entirely about vocational knowledge, “in tough times, it is vital more jobseekers have the skills to match the jobs on offer.”

His comments were made following the launch this week of London’s Skills Challenge. Commissioned by London Councils, the report examines the capital’s skills shortages. It argues the system is failing to address London’s employment problem and calls for councils to have a key role in ensuring skills supply meets local employment needs.

The current system is not fully matching up employers’ needs with training – resulting in an oversupply of skills in some areas and a deficit in others.

Almost a quarter of vacancies in London are due to skills shortages, according to employers – primarily in growth areas like marketing, sales and the creative and cultural industries.

Cllr John added: “Councils want to help employers meet their skills needs, but the government needs to realise too central a system doesn’t match supply with demand. The government could provide better help for less money by devolving power down.”


Notes to editors

Cllr John’s comments were made at a joint event between London Councils and Barclays, held at Barclays headquarters on 16 May 2013.

London has below UK average rates of employment, despite government spending of £550 million on skills.

The below table, based on data from a CESI study, outlines the jobs with the highest and lowest ratios of jobs per trainee in London. For example, in 2011 there were 958 marketing / sales jobs for every trainee undertaking a qualification in that area, yet only 2.3 for every person qualifying in hair / beauty and only 4.4 vacancies per health and safety trainee.


High ratio of jobs available per trainee

Medium ratio of jobs available per trainee

Low ratio of jobs available per trainee

Creative and cultural industries*

Fashion and textiles

Marketing and sales

Building services (e.g. plumbing)





Teaching support


Hair and beauty

Health and safety

*- includes jobs in advertising, digital design, PR, journalism and the arts/culture. 

To see this data in its original format, see p7, table 2: http://www.cesi.org.uk/publications/hidden-talents-skills-mismatch-analysis

London’s Skills Challenge, which was published on 14 May 2013, outlines a number of measures to address the issue. These include devolving some of the LEP’s powers and resources to councils or groups of councils, improving awareness amongst jobseekers of the skills employers need most, and incentivising skills providers to offer training for the jobs most in demand. The report is available to view here: http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/news/current/pressdetail.htm?pk=1613