“Skilled people don’t grow on trees”
At the risk of sounding like a long-playing record, I feel I must return at the start of a New Year to a white hot topic that I first wrote about in the July edition of Business & Innovation Magazine.
That is: skills.
Companies across the region readily admit that finding skilled people is, for most, their main priority.
But I am afraid few companies get down to trying to really sort out what is becoming a key issue for business in Gloucestershire.
And it is not for the want of persuasion either.
You may remember at the start of the Vision 2050 project, Gloucestershire County Council’s chief executive, Peter Bungard, gave some scary figures on the skills picture.
Just to remind you, in Gloucestershire we need something like 13,000 new people annually to replace those leaving through retirement or other reasons.
And we are haemorrhaging young people at an alarming rate – around 400 a year are leaving the county.
The county council and GFirstLEP, the local enterprise partnership, has set up a Skills Board to try and get to grips with this key issue.
Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire are also investing significant time and energies into tackling the skills issue too.
They all have a mountain to climb but they cannot do it alone.
The government, immersed in its Brexit bubble, must get its head on properly and back up what we are all doing here, in Gloucestershire and across the region.
Cash to further education colleges has been slashed which seems to make no sense if government is going to stand any chance of meeting its target for apprenticeships: three million by 2020.
While I must lay blame at the door of government, a lot of local businesses must also shoulder some of the responsibility for our dire skills gap.
“Skills must be a key constituent for the county’s Industrial Strategy which the government has asked local enterprise partnerships to develop”
In Gloucestershire, it is a fact that something like 57 per cent of employers have an annual training budget of less than £1,000, and 77 per cent less than £5,000.
How can they possibly hope to develop their own skilled people if they are not prepared to put more money into training?
One thing is certain. Skills must be a key constituent for the county’s Industrial Strategy which the government has asked local enterprise partnerships to develop.
And some companies simply have to wake up and realise that skilled people do not grow on trees.
The Gloucestershire 2050 Vision Project was conceived by Gloucestershire County Council following discussions that identified the need for an ambitious, long- term development plan for Gloucestershire.
They suggested that focusing on a date 30 years in the future would help long-term investment and progressive planning necessary for truly game-changing projects. Significantly greater funding can also be leveraged with a 30-year payback period, enabling the development of transformational projects.
Retaining and attracting young people to Gloucestershire has been identified as a central issue.
The final G2050 Vision portfolio will be launched publicly this summer. Further detailed scoping work on the project can then begin.