E.g., 07/01/2023
E.g., 07/01/2023
Immigrant Workers and the Workforce Development System in the United Kingdom
October 2013

Immigrant Workers and the Workforce Development System in the United Kingdom

The global economic landscape is undergoing a profound transformation. This reality calls for a reassessment of enduring assumptions about immigration’s role in the 21st century labor market. Aging workforces and the imperatives of competitiveness and sustaining the welfare state have long undergirded selective immigration policies. But countries cannot reap the benefits of immigration unless they use immigrants’ skills more effectively and also understand the crucial relationship between domestic and immigrant sources of labor. This report, the first in a series examining workforce development systems in three countries, focuses on the increasingly employer-led and flexible workforce development system in the United Kingdom.

Workforce development efforts in the United Kingdom encompass both centrally driven and decentralized qualities, resulting in differing outcomes in the four countries of the United Kingdom. In England, the system is increasingly employer-led, meaning that the content and provision of training is largely left to employers rather than being regulated by the state. It is also flexible, as individuals who have missed out on formal training can access courses and apprenticeships specifically designed for nontraditional students later in life. This flexibility is likely to benefit immigrants, even though they are not specifically targeted.

UK government funding does not concentrate specifically on training for immigrants, but this report covers four core aspects of the workforce development system in the United Kingdom that have particular implications for immigrants:

1. Employers have a lot of power in the current system. Immigrants’ access to skills development depends largely on employers’ policies and not on the standards set by the government.

2. The system's flexibility may benefit some immigrant workers.

3. The complexity of the system may disadvantage the most vulnerable immigrants.

4. The system's emphasis on individual responsibilty may be a deterrent to immigrant workers, who are expected to self-fund language or other training.

Table of Contents 

I.  Introduction

II.  Overview of the Vocational Education and Training System

A.  The Education System in England

B.  Who Is Eligible for Publicly Funded Training? 

III. The Evolution of Skills Policy in England

A.  Key Features of the Workforce Development System in England

B.  Developments in Skills Policy in the Past Decade

C.  How Government Funding Is Allocated

D.  The Implications of Institutional Instability and Complexity. 16

IV.  Implications for Immigrants

A.  (Lack of) Targeting

B.  Access to Training by Establishment Size, Sector, and Occupation

C.  Barriers to Access

V.  Conclusions and Policy Recommendations

A.  Responses to Diversity

B.  Individualization and Flexibility in Delivery

C.  Policy Recommendations