Skill gaps addressed

Posted on 17 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) today released Skills for Jobs: Today and Tomorrow - the first national strategic audit for skills in England.

It is released alongside a raft of new public and private investments that were also announced today by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to mark the one year anniversary of the New Industry New Jobs strategy.

UKCES’ report aims to share insight into the challenges facing government, employers, public agencies and individuals in rebalancing the UK’s economy and exploiting emerging markets. Just over one in 10 of the current workforce in England has no formal qualifications, UKCES says, and if the UK is to achieve its competitive potential this skills shortfall must be addressed. The report highlights that the challenge is particularly prominent in manufacturing – the sector worst hit by job loss in the recession.

The UKCES audit is supported by 25 sector specific and 10 ‘cluster’ reports which focus in greater detail on what can be done by sector and region to move forward.

Providing optimism for the manufacturing, these reports highlight the importance that industry will have in the future national economy. Manufacturing opportunities in low carbon technology, advanced composites, defence and security, space and plastic electronics are featured in the report on a level with ‘sexier’ areas such as creative industries and digital technologies.

Working to help create national ability to deliver on government’s New Industry, New Jobs strategy, UKCES has identified the areas earmarked for growth and questioned the infrastructure that will be required for their success.

A significant contribution to the report has been made by the Sector Skills Council, Cogent. Its report, Power People, defines a growth scenario for the civil nuclear industry while another, Next Generation – Skills for New Build Nuclear, accurately specifies the workforce requirements per reactor and station.

The scenario provided by Cogent anticipates the experience of a nuclear power ‘valley’ as the current national estate declines. It forecasts that the first new generation nuclear power will be functional by 2018, providing 16GW low carbon electricity by 2025. This should create 30,000 new jobs and draw in 10,000 apprentices as well as 10,000 STEM graduates per year. Cogent proposes an ambitious trajectory for civil nuclear but one which seems more tangible in the light of today’s simultaneous announcement of an £80m government investment in nuclear reactor forgings maker Sheffield Forgemasters.

UKCES encourages investment to impress upon children, schools and families the opportunities in existing and developing industries. “We give better advice to someone buying a television than we do to young people making the most important decisions of their lives,” said Chris Humphries CBE, Chief Executive of UKCES.

However, the report does not address the potential for up-skilling current workers in the manufacturing sector and transferring qualified labour from declining markets into those now burgeoning. Sector Skills Council Semta has indicated that 70% of the manufacturing workforce in 2014 are already in employment now.

Click here for a report on the investments announced by Lord Mandelson today.