Skill thrill

Posted on 26 Mar 2010 by The Manufacturer

This week's Budget promised a £2.5bn package to boost skills and innovation in small businesses.

According to 2009 statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses this portion of UK business activity includes some 4.8million organisations which together contribute of 50% of the UKs annual turnover. Furthermore 64% of commercial innovations originate in small firms.

The announcement that the Budget will provide significant support for further innovation in small businesses shows that they have recognised the part they will play in driving Britain’s strategic move to an economy based on advanced manufacturing, green technology, research and development and other STEM based industries.

Semta, the employer-led sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, has welcomed this show of perception from government. Philip Whiteman, Chief Executive of Semta, said: “In our sectors 98% of companies have less than 200 employees so we welcome the announcement of additional funding for…businesses which make up the supply chain backbone of the British industry.

We are also pleased that the government has acknowledged the growth of advanced manufacturing and has offered additional support to businesses operating in areas such as bioscience, aerospace and nanotechnology.”

Semta has long pushed to raise the profile of smaller companies and highlight there need for skills in order to provide a bedrock for their larger customers. They have worked to improve knowledge transfer networks for effective skills development and innovation with meaning.

In 2009 over 900 companies in England were supported by Semta to access its funding package agreed with government, 79% of them SMEs, with £60 million to deliver 45,000 qualifications.
Recently however they have answered calls from the employer community to simplify access to funding. Philip Whiteman says “Our new simplified One Call Skills Service, is built around a simple four-step process that allows employers to identify their specific skills needs and source the right training provision and suitable funding. It can then support a detailed measure of training impact. A key priority for Semta in 2010 is working with other skills bodies to make it easier for employers to improve the match between skills supply and demand at a local level.”

New Semta research published this week indicated the need for around 205,000 (29,300 per annum jobs within its sector remit between 2010-2016. This need is based on anticipated retirements from the current workforce (30-40% of workers in Semta’s footprint are 45+) as well as trajectories for growth anticipated in key strategic areas.

The above research is based on detailed surveys of 5,469 employers covering nearly 257,000 employees from the aerospace, automotive, bioscience, electrical engineering, electronics, marine, mechanical engineering and metals industries.