Manufacturing skills for the future

Posted on 3 Aug 2012 by Tim Brown

The Liverpool City Region is seeing a revival in its manufacturing sector but the current employment stock is unable to meet the likely demand of industry. David Rawlinson, a Partner at law firm Hill Dickinson, takes a look at the issue.

At a Hill Dickinson event in March, business leaders and representatives from schools, HE and FE organisations said the Merseyside region needs to create 20,000 jobs by 2020 if it is to meet the demand of the region’s large strategic projects.

The Manufacturing Skills for the Future event saw over 90 attendees discuss the challenges facing the Merseyside economy. Frank Field MP spoke passionately about the need to focus on the manufacturing sector and particularly the need to equip school pupils with the necessary skills for employment on large strategic projects, such as HaltonBridgeand Peel’s Superport.

Rather than pushing all young people towards academic courses, it is clear we need to widen the choice and offer them the opportunity to acquire alternative practical skills. There is a real need for tiers between school, FE college and university and to bring in practically-oriented initiatives such as apprenticeships.

It is not just about key areas like English and maths but is also about the way pupils present themselves and the way they react in a team environment – the soft skills that are not necessarily part of the mainstream curriculum in schools but are vitally important in the workplace.

The prospect of 20,000 jobs by 2020 is a great boost to the local economy and in an effort to facilitate this demand, we’ve been working to establish a forum through which schools and business leaders can work together to prepare the region to make the most of this opportunity.

Jaguar Land Rover hosted the first Forum at Partnership for Learning in Liverpool where it was demonstrated that there is an appetite amongst manufacturers to address the skills gap. However, while the Jaguar Land Rovers and the Cammell Lairds of this world are big enough to be able to put money into their own apprenticeship schemes, the Government needs to do more to incentivise smaller manufacturers to invest in our future workforce.

The onus is now on education providers and businesses to work together to design courses that will enable Merseyside’s next generation to rise to the challenge.