News | Published November 17 2019

Firms like Elite Training South West demonstrate how localism can address skills shortage

The Edge Foundation launched its latest report on skills shortages on 12th November at Liverpool Town Hall, with its chair Neil Bates saying that education policy and industrial strategy must be better aligned at a local level to combat the issue.

The report hones in on the impact of skills shortages on the UK economy, estimated to be costing British businesses as much as £4.4 billion per year.

There are an estimated 226,000 skills shortage vacancies across the UK. The event in Liverpool was in the aim of bringing local employers, educationalists and policymakers together to discuss how best to supply young people with the workplace skills needed to close the gap within Merseyside.

Bates said: “Our latest skills shortages bulletin puts the situation in stark relief and the north is disproportionately affected. There are £1 billion worth of building projects in the pipeline in Liverpool, but as our report shows, employers are struggling to recruit people with the skills they need. Small and medium-sized construction companies train two thirds of all industry apprentices. Our discussion today is about how we can get schools and colleges collaborating with business to skill up young people so they take up these opportunities.”

With fears that Brexit may only exacerbate the problem given its impact on immigration of skilled workers from the EU, looking to the local community for a solution may well be the way forward.

While Edge has focused on addressing the gap in the north of England, one firm, Elite Training, based in Devon, have set about dealing with the issue in the southwest. Its successful approach may well even provide a model which those further north can aspire toward.

Elite Training’s managing director, Mike Baker, wrote about the firm’s local focus in The Parliamentary Review: “It was clear very early on that Elite Training South West was not going to be a training centre but a community centre. Maths, English and IT have been the core of our business since its creation. We have now helped and supported over 2,000 learners to gain a nationally recognised qualification.”

Baker went on to discuss how, following an open day with referral partners and learners both past and present, it dawned on him that work-sector needs ‘were not being met’ in the local community. Elite Training endeavoured to do something about it.

Explaining the firm’s approach in more detail, Baker wrote: “We designed a work-sector course that not only covered the key employability requirements, such as CV design and maintenance, job searching and presentation skills, but that also involved units designed to build upon feedback from our learners, such as dealing with your first day at work, co-operation in the workplace and communication.”

After what Baker described as ‘successful trial courses’ had taken place, it was clear that Elite Training’s approach had had the desired effect.

“After successful trial courses, employers started to approach us, asking if we could run courses for their recruitment; in return, each learner would be guaranteed an interview, resulting in 73 per cent of learners who complete the course gaining employment."

Baker added: “A key strength of ours has been the innovative courses we have created that match our community’s needs; being a small business with dedicated staff, we are able to react quickly to meet these needs.”

The Elite Training example is an indicator of how local training providers are able to respond to the needs of employers in their communities to address the gap in skills on a more regional level.

Immigration is set to become more controlled after Brexit and restrict employers’ capacity to recruit skilled workers from abroad, so there may be an incentive to look to local solutions to address the skills shortage. The Elite Training example shows that it can work, with the Edge Foundation’s forum in Liverpool suggesting that a more localised approach is now being considered elsewhere in the UK. Whether it will be implemented en masse across the country in a bid to address the issue remains to be seen.

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The Parliamentary Review

November 17 2019

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