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Home > News > Plugging the Skills Gap

Plugging the Skills Gap

27 April 2017 | Paul Hardman

Our Manufacturing and Supply Chain Sector discussed the solution to the skills gap during our recent Director’s lunch forum event.

So, what is the skills gap?

The skills gap, put simply, is not having the people with the right skills when you want them. 

The team identified part of the cause as a “missing generation” of 25-35-year old’s.  Turned off by STEM subjects and unprepared by colleges for jobs in companies they are likely to work in, namely SME’s, as well as the inability to access skills from abroad because of visa requirements.  Other more specific skill needs were recognised too, in particular, back office and basic engineering skills rather than for higher trained staff. 

But skills aren’t just what’s on the CV; it’s also about adapting to change and seeking new opportunities. The group discussed a couple of examples;

  • the skills requirements for a business planning to grow 2-3 times its current size, limited by the experience and outlook of its current management team
  • the effect of a restructuring of another business, where about 85% of the workforce had been made redundant and the remaining staff had responded to the challenge and were seizing new opportunities.

The solutions

The group felt positively about using websites and LinkedIn in particular, to develop early conversations with would-be candidates so that they could be ear-marked for vacancies well ahead of them becoming a business need.  Other participants of the group reminded us of the continuing need to engage with the university milk round and to pick out the best candidates early.  Whilst others talked about inspiring people in this context such as a story of a female engineer, who through example and public speaking inspired other women to think that engineering could be for them.

Key messages from speakers

Neil Ricketts, a director of his own company, Versarien and of the Gloucestershire LEP as well as a great believer in training for engineers, spoke to the group.  He’s the company corporate sponsor of the new University Technical College being built at Berkeley power station. The new UTC is being built with a choice of curriculum being modelled for the jobs that students will do when they enter working life.  For the students, it means getting used to working life – for instance going dressed in company uniforms – and getting to work on real projects.  The UTC will produce the middle-level engineers covering the sorts of skills requirements that were discussed earlier.

The group also heard from Henry Lawes about the Enterprise Adviser Network which is engaging businesses with secondary schools and colleges.  There are 31 schools in the network and 39 enterprise advisors.  He explained that the colleges are looking to build a strategic employer engagement plan: for business leaders to engage with college principals around their needs and for that to be fed back into the college’s education plan.  Henry stated that 99.4% of employers in the West of England LEP area employ less than 250 employees, and that out of 44,000 employers only 200 are classified as “large” businesses. He encouraged businesses to work with education providers to get the outcomes that they need and explained that for students to have four or more inspirational interactions in business will mean they are far less likely to go down a negative path.

Apprenticeship Clearing Houses (possible schemes)

  1. Gloucestershire Apprenticeship Clearing: The final report was made to the full council of Gloucestershire County Council on the 8th July 2015, in which it was concluded that the idea of the “apprenticeship clearing house” should instead be seen as an “apprenticeship hub”: a single coordinating point for apprenticeships in the county” the full report can be found here.
  2. GKN Apprenticeship Clearing House: Further investigation needed as to whether this initiative has borne fruit.  This is a similar concept suggested by GKN, namely that those apprentices that were not right for GKN could be made available to other local businesses.
  3. Renishaw’s Apprenticeship Programme: Further enquiries of Renishaw necessary as to the availability of their candidates under a similar clearing house idea.

Additional Information

City of Bristol College:  We note the recent story that City of Bristol College will no longer be able to recruit for apprenticeship students from the 1st May this year – see the Bristol Post story on this here. We will be watching this story and will update with any developments.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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