North East industry bodies have thrown their weight behind calls for better vocational and on-the-job training, following the publication of a CBI report proposing measures to close the UK’s “chronic” skills gap.
The Tomorrow’s Growth report suggests urgent action must be taken to boost “learn-as-you-earn” training and create more business-designed degrees.
It argues relying on traditional university courses alone will not meet the growing demand for degree-level technical skills in key sectors like manufacturing, construction, IT and engineering, and says the Government needs to remove barriers to better co-operation.
The CBI also warns that businesses need to tackle the perception that A-levels followed by a three-year residential course are the only route to a good career.
It likewise says there are not enough courses with business links, that there is only patchy understanding of student finance, and that poor advice is often given to young people about the options available.
A new vocational UCAS-style system could bridge the gap, it claims, while universities could increase employer-backed “sandwich” courses and compressed or part-time degrees.
Businesses, meanwhile, need to expand their commitment to high-quality training schemes, such as higher and advanced apprenticeships and work-based training, alongside traditional degrees. Chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce James Ramsbotham responded: “As the region’s largest independent supplier of apprenticeships and training, NECC recognises that vocational and on the job training are essential to the regional education mix.
“The North East boasts some of the best parts of the UK economy, but research suggests that over 8,500 skilled people across the North East will be retiring from the engineering sector before 2016.
“This poses a considerable threat to our industrial wellbeing, particularly as many companies are reaching full capacity in their ability to recruit and deliver.
“It is not just the responsibility of our large firms, schools, colleges and universities to ensure our future workforce is equipped with the requisite skills.
“This issue is something that we must address throughout the business community, which must engage more with education and commit to the training agenda.”
Chief executive of science, engineering and manufacturing skills organisation Semta, Sarah Sillars OBE, added: “The fact is there is a wealth of opportunity already in the system, but a chronic lack of engagement from educators who have the future of their pupils and our country in their hands.
“It is a criminal waste of young talent and potential growth to have a massive and growing skills gap at a time of record youth unemployment.
“Semta is planning to redouble its efforts to ensure that the ill-informed or prejudiced people in key positions are not able to cocoon young people from taking a vocational path which will transform their lives.”