Skills gap ‘will hit business recovery’

By Ian Dipple Friday 08 August 2014 Updated: 08/08 09:25

BUSINESSES in Redditch will struggle to reap the benefits of the economic recovery because of a shortage of skilled workers, a leading recruitment expert has warned.

Paul Alekna, managing director at Church Green based eResponse Recruitment, says firms must invest in apprenticeships and training to stay ahead of competitors in the UK and overseas.

The number of apprenticeships created in Redditch since 2005 has rocketed by 285 per cent to over 1,000 and more were created in the borough in 2012/13 than anywhere else in Worcestershire.

But despite that firms are still struggling to find workers with the skills they need with manufacturing particularly hit. A recent report by the West Midlands Regional Observatory warned a shortage of technical skills would hold back Redditch and the wider region’s economic recovery, with some companies so worried about their ability to recruit and retain staff with the necessary skills over the next decade they fear for their survival.

One in ten workers in all sectors across Worcestershire are reported to lack the skills needed to do their job currently.

Mr Alekna said: “Across the country, and across various industries, there is an obvious shortage of appropriately skilled people which means that many firms simply cannot fill some key vacancies.

“That is exactly why we cannot allow the gap between supply and demand for skilled workers to widen further. Doing nothing could really take the steam out of the recovery. So employers in the Redditch area need to start doing things differently when it comes to their people.

“What we need to see now are businesses thinking ahead about the types of skills and people they are going to need as their businesses or key markets develop,” he added.

“Investing now in proper training and development programmes will tackle the skills challenge head on.

They have to be able to train up their existing workforce to meet the demands and challenges of their customers and ensure that all their staff move with developments in technology and working practices.”

Mr Alekna was speaking as he prepared to launch his firm’s ‘School to Skills’ programme which aims to encourage businesses to take on apprentices and develop young talent.

“But firms have to be attractive to people too – both young and experienced,” Mr Alekna added.

“It’s not just a case of applicants competing for a job - employers are going to be competing for the right applicants as the search for the best matches intensifies.

“People are waking up to the widening skills gap here in the UK and it’s positive to see the government’s latest investment drive. But we need to look across all industries and encourage long-term investment in people and their skills.”

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