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The sixth Skills in Focus event took place in Atlantic Quay, Glasgow, on Thursday 20 June 2013, hosted by Paul McKelvie OBE, Chair of the Joint Skills Committee. The Skills in Focus series is intended to stimulate informed debate around current and future skills issues.

The event featured two presentations by Professors Alan Felstead and Francis Green from the University of Cardiff and the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) respectively. Professor Felstead looked at skills utilisation over the past 25 years based on data from the Skills and Employment Survey. Professor Green examined the extent to which job-related training undertaken by those in employment has changed over the long term and during the current recession.

The event attracted senior representatives from across the skills landscape. The organisations represented included the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Trades Union Congress, Jobcentre Plus, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Support Training Action Group, the Scottish Training Federation, and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. There was also representation from individual Scottish businesses, colleges, universities and local authorities. The diverse nature of the audience demonstrated the importance of the topic and contributed to a wide-ranging debate.

The first presentation by Professor Felstead focused on a key source of evidence on skills underutilization, the Skills and Employment Survey. This is an independent survey of workers' views on qualifications, training and the nature of their job. Professor Felstead's analysis of the survey data found that in Britain between 1986 and 2006 aggregate mismatches in the level of qualifications supplied and those demanded were growing rapidly and over qualification rates were also increasing. However, the 2012 results suggest that the matching process has begun to improve in Britain with overqualification rates falling for the first time since the series began. Professor Felstead also highlighted the need for robust evidence to understand the impact that skills misalignments may have on well-being, job satisfaction and pay in Scotland.

The second presentation by Professor Green identifies what has been happening to training in Scotland and Britain based on evidence from a number of surveys including the Quarterly Labour Force Survey and the Skills and Employment Survey. Professor Green uses this evidence to show that in Scotland (similar to Britain) training episodes are getting shorter, that there has been a decline in the proportion of training that is off-the-job and a potentially concerning decline in training volumes. Professor Green highlights the need to monitor both training volumes and the quality of training in addition to participation rates. Observing the shifting contribution of training to skills formation is very important if we are to understand training's role in the growth of the Scottish economy.

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