Manufacturers pay to plug skills gap

David Ost, regional director of the EEF in the North West
David Ost, regional director of the EEF in the North West
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Manufacturers are having to plough cash into plugging the North West’s skills gap, a new study has shown.

The latest study, compiled by manufacturers body, EEF, and recruitment agency, JAM, showed nearly three-quarters of businesses highlighted finding and recruiting staff as a key concern with nearly half saying it was their biggest concern.

It also showed many expected to see demand for skills in production (60%), craft and technician (58%) and research and development (41%) to increase in the next three years.

Mr Ost said the demands showed the need to “raise ambitions” for the national apprenticeship programme.

He said: “Manufacturers are taking the initiative to ensure that skills gaps don’t hold them back from their ambitions to develop new products and services and expand into new markets.

“But despite the government’s best efforts, investing in apprenticeships and finding the right qualifications, training courses and provider is still far from straightforward.

“The time is ripe to go further and put employers in the driving seat by giving them the power to set the standards for their industry, the scope to decide how to train their apprenticeships and by routing public funding for training through the firms that invest in it.

“In doing so the government should resist the vested interests of training providers to maintain the status quo and the calls to add more bureaucracy to the system by giving Local Enterprise Partnerships control of skills budgets.”

The study, published on Monday, also showed 60% of businesses expected to “moderately or significantly” increase their spending on training in the next two years with a further 68% expecting to offer apprenticeships for the next four years.

JAM Recruitment chief executive John Morris said recent years had seen an “alarming” increase in “hard-to-fill” positions.

He said: “To remain internationally competitive, UK manufacturing needs a skilled, flexible labour force.

“That will only happen if the government ensures the training market is coherent, accessible and delivering what employers need.

“In the long term it’s vital that science, technology, engineering and maths subjects are prioritised in the education system and that we get the message across to a new generation that there are fantastic career opportunities manufacturing.”