Skills crisis in Yorkshire & Humber threatens local growth

More than half of businesses in Yorkshire & Humber fear they will not be able to recruit enough high-skilled workers to succeed in the future, according to the 2015 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey.

This year’s UK-wide survey, which included 85 firms which employ people in Yorkshire & Humber – found that 68 per cent of firms in the region need more highly skilled staff, particularly in key sectors such as science and engineering, construction and manufacturing.

But 58 per cent are not confident that they will be able to find the high-level skills needed to meet demand and grow. Businesses are already reporting real problems in recruiting people with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills – with 24 per cent currently struggling to employ graduates with sufficient STEM skills.

Lucy Thornycroft, CBI regional director Yorkshire & Humber, said: “While the Yorkshire & Humber economy continues to make headway we must be on our guard as local growth risks being undermined by a shortage of the higher-level skills businesses need to get on, and the situation is only set to get worse.

“High-growth, high-value sectors, with the most potential are under the most pressure, like science, engineering, digital and manufacturing. We must make sure that our education and skills system is truly responsive to the needs of business and that young people receive much better careers advice, if we are to propel the Yorkshire & Humber economy forward in the years ahead.”

More, and better quality apprenticeships are part of the answer – and employers are stepping up to the skills challenge.

“63 per cent of firms responding to the survey intend to expand their apprenticeship programme or start one in the next three years – the best result since the survey began in 2008.

Across England 78 per cent of businesses are not satisfied with the current performance of careers advice in schools and colleges.

Business also wants to see universities doing more to improve the business relevance of undergraduate courses (57 per cent) and help students become job-ready (47 per cent) if the challenge is to be met.

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson’s UK business, said: “Building a world-class school and qualifications system is the best long-term solution for securing sustainable, skilled workers and economic growth.

“We must prepare young people for the world of work through closer engagement and collaboration between the business community, universities, schools and further education colleges.”

On apprenticeships Lucy Thornycroft added: “Apprenticeships are part of the answer and plenty of firms are getting involved. But the risk with the government’s new apprenticeship levy is that it focuses on quantity not improving quality or delivering the skills that the economy requires.

“As the levy applies to all large employers in Yorkshire & Humber, it is essential that businesses across the region are consulted on the proposed rate before it goes ahead.”

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