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Invest in English language to fix skills shortages

A lack of English language proficiency is holding back skilled migrants from entering the UK workforce at a time of skills shortages, according to a new report. 

The commission said skill shortages are a “major constraint” to economic growth and productivity. Photo: iStock.

Skill shortages are a “major constraint” to economic growth and productivity

The Lifelong Education Commission has called for the better provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages to enable the migrant population to fill labour gaps. Skill shortages are a “major constraint” to economic growth and productivity, according to its latest report

“The sector has often been treated as a mere peripheral concern by policymakers”

The group has outlined its recommendations to improve ESOL provision, including offering free English language teaching to everyone seeking UK citizenship after six months in the country.

It has also suggested that the Department for Education should develop a specific ESOL strategy for England. 

Liz Bromley, chief executive officer of NCG, a group of UK colleges, said that “consistent cuts” to ESOL funding and growing demand is making it “extremely difficult for us to provide this vital education to everyone who needs it”.

The number of England and Wales residents born outside the UK has doubled over the last 20 years and now stands at over 10 million – equivalent to one in six of the total population, according the report. 

“ESOL currently forms a sizeable part of England’s adult education provision,” said Andy Forbes, policy lead and report author at the Lifelong Education Commission. “Yet despite this, the sector has often been treated as a mere peripheral concern by policymakers – who see it as secondary to ‘topical’ subjects like science, engineering, and mathematics. 

“This is counterproductive, as for many migrants and asylum seekers, improving their English is the most practical and valuable undertaking there is.”

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