A lost generation of skills

Posted on 17 Feb 2011 by The Manufacturer

Terry Watts, CEO of Proskills, comments on the record high youth unemployment figures.

Youth unemployment has risen to a record high of 965,000 (20.5%) in the three months to the end of December. Proskills, the sector skills council for process and manufacturing industries feels that these statistics are alarming as the economy struggles into growth mode.

One in five young people are currently out of work – an increase of 66,000. This is alarming news considering the UK is suffering from one of the biggest skills shortages of the century in the manufacturing industry – one which is costing the UK £118 million in lost productivity.

Manufacturing has shown the fastest growth for 15 years, and if we’re to continue with the steady increase in productivity and compete globally, we need the right workforce in place Our industries alone need 10,000 higher skilled recruits each year to cover growth and retirements in an ageing workforce.

We are working hard to promote the opportunities available in the manufacturing industry, but need Government to do more to espouse the whole of manufacturing, and not just the high profile industries.

The manufacturing and process industries we represent such as building products, timber, furniture, print, glazed ceramics and glass, may not have the lobbying power of defence suppliers, automotive or power companies but their outputs are fundamental to the development of the economy as a whole. As big technological innovations are happening in these industries Government needs to carefully balance its levels of support. There is a danger that key parts of the UK economy and significant parts of manufacturing, which are vital to growth, are missing out.

There is a continuing need in our industries for investment in training provisions to help companies and individuals grow through up skilling. We need employers to recognise the vast opportunities and benefits on- the- job training schemes such as Apprenticeships can offer. An unskilled workforce has an impact right across the industry – from decreasing profit margins to decreasing international competitiveness. Apprenticeship frameworks are critical in ensuring that vital skills are not lost from industry within the next 10 – 15 years, and as university placement fees rise and increased competition hampers opportunities for young people today, they are key to opening up opportunities to a generation of workers who are unable to gain experience elsewhere.

Sector skills councils, like Proskills, will continue to work with the Government and employers alike to help tackle unemployment and deliver training solutions by encouraging a wider system of vocational qualifications to meet the needs of the economy. We recently launched the Schools Into Industry Programmes, supported by Lord Digby Jones, aiming to foster a culture of collaboration between help schools and employers, working together to educate and enthuse students to consider a career within manufacturing.

Our role at Proskills is to bridge the gap between Government and employers to effectively support talent in areas where skills are needed. The alternative is a UK economy continuing to struggle out of recession and a lost generation of skilled workers.