Warwickshire business leaders say boosting skills should be the priority of the next government - The Leamington Observer

Warwickshire business leaders say boosting skills should be the priority of the next government

BUSINESS leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire say boosting skills should be a key priority for the next government but have urged politicians not to tear up the whole system.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce has set out three key barriers to growth for firms in the region and are raising those issues ahead of the General Election on July 4.

The shortage of employment land and the cost of doing business are holding back regional businesses, according to the Chamber, on top of a shortage of skills that makes recruitment difficult, particularly in certain sectors.

That inability to find the right staff means that businesses with strong order books are still struggling to grow because they don’t have the workforce to meet demand.

Chamber spokesperson Sally Lucas said: “We want to see a skills system that supports the creation of higher skilled, higher value jobs with structures that are easy to access and navigate, free from red tape and bureaucracy which flexibly meets the needs of all businesses – particularly SMEs.

“It needs to be a simplified, stable and clear system, which raises the demand for skills among employers through a system that is familiar and well understood. Employers need targeted support, advice and guidance to articulate their skills needs and access appropriate solutions.

“The next government, whoever that might be, needs to create coherent pathways where parts of the system join up and interlink.

“While the apprenticeship levy provides a clear focus on the need to invest in apprenticeships, it requires refinement and flex. Recent data on the take-up of apprenticeships, shows that employers are investing in their existing workforce which is at the expense of the creation of new apprenticeship jobs – particularly for young people. The system needs to create more apprenticeship opportunities for young people. So, while the system needs refinement, it doesn’t need to be ripped up.”

Ms Lucas continued that it was crucial there was greater investment in careers education, particularly for young people, and very clear pathways for adults to re-skill and up-skill were provided.

Corin Crane, Chamber chief executive, added: “Skills has barely been mentioned in the campaign so far and, yet, it is fundamental to the growth of the economy.

“When you look at this area alone, we’ve potentially got exciting developments at HORIBA MIRA, Wellesbourne, the Gigapark and at Ansty which could create up to 30,000 jobs and we need to make sure we have the people with the skills to meet that demand.”


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