Demand for Skills
Report Segment: Demand for Skills
The demand for skills is more complicated than it may first appear, and calls for demand led training often lack clarity about whose demand it is they’re talking about. Leitch suggested that there needs to be a greater emphasis on engaging with employers and creating a genuinely ‘demand-led’ system for the planning and delivery of skills. But of course “demand” is a multi-faceted term – sometimes referring to individual demand (the student), at other times demand as anticipated by government as a proxy for macro demand for the nation; and occasionally, it has meant the actual demand for skills from employers – based on their individual company need. These different demands pull in different directions, so, to use the overworked but clear example, teenagers may choose (demand) hairdressing as their vocation. The college provides the course, the (often very good) facilities, and the teachers; and the government pays for the delivery of skills. But the local economy, and probably the national economy, may not have a need for new hairdressers.
There is a further problem with demand which needs to be mentioned here. It is in connection with skills shortages and perceived recruitment difficulties; employers naturally seek a labour and skills market where both the labour and skills required are in abundant supply. This not only improves choice and depresses labour cost, but also keeps existing labour ‘on their toes’. So when we ‘listen’ to employers, we need to be aware of the demands which reflect normal market conditions, and demand which needs public sector intervention to address the need. Intervention based on ‘perceived employer demand’ may simply create a dis-equilibrium in the market – an oversupply of specific labour or skills.