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It’s time for businesses to invest in skills of the future
1:30pm Wednesday 30th October 2013 in News
SECURING Worcester-shire’s future prosperity is vitally important for the county, impacting on both its communities and environment.
To date, Worcestershire has been good for businesses, many of which have invested in the county, growing their existing facilities. Businesses such as Malvern Instruments, which was founded in the early 1970s, today employs a workforce of about 300 at its global manufacturing and commercial headquarters in Malvern and in the next two years aims to recruit a further 50 staff, preferably from within Worcestershire. But we must not be complacent. With an increasing ageing population and an average of more than 1,300 people aged 15-19 moving out of the county each year, the future may not remain so prosperous.
As a result, building a strong economy is Worcestershire Next Generation’s number one concern. Without new jobs, future generations may be forced to leave the county and search for opportunities elsewhere meaning less money to invest in the other things that make Worcestershire great – its communities and environment.
Worcestershire Next Generation aims to do more to bring in new businesses and jobs and better support smaller, locally-grown businesses within the county, while also working with other counties, cities and towns to make sure Worcestershire benefits from these links and remains competitive. Paul Walker, managing dir-ector of Malvern Instruments, said: “I have been involved with the formulation of the Next Generation plan and I think placing the local economy at the heart of our future prosperity is absolutely the right thing to do.
“The local economy is the key driver for our future prosperity and as we all know, in recent times, our dependence on the Government and public sector being able to provide jobs and opportunities to create that future wealth is going to be constrained at best. “Therefore it is vitally imp-ortant that businesses across all sectors of the local community can generate those jobs and future prosperity both for the community as a whole, but particularly for the people that live and grow up here in those 20-25 years – our children, my children.”
One of Mr Walker’s main priorities is to concentrate more on the links between education and business in Worcestershire.
There are currently more than 2,500 18 to 24-year-olds in Worcestershire who have been unemployed for more than 12 months, 6.5 per cent compared with six per cent nationally. In some parts of the county, the rate is double that. A key finding from the National Employers Skills Survey (NESS) 2009 for the West Midlands. suggests that 10 per cent of staff in Worcestershire have skills gaps – more than in both the West Midlands and England. In the West Midlands, more than one-third of employers indicated that applicants did not have the correct skills req-uired to fill vacancies, with a lack of work experience and qualifications cited as key reasons. A further 62 per cent of employers with skills shortage vacancies reported that the main skills lacking were technical and practical skills. By 2020, Worcestershire Next Generation aims to get education and businesses working closer together, to ensure these skills are being developed.
Mr Walker said: “Unemploy-ment across the country, but equally true in Worcester-shire, is on the rise but businesses here have the roles and opportunities today that many of them, ourselves included, find difficult to fill.
“The reason for that is over the years, we haven’t closely matched the development of technical and practical training in our young people to be able to give them the opportunity to fill the vacancies and opportunities that are there now and in the future.
“In the next two years, we will be looking to recruit 50 people in this organisation, but unless we change the way in which we secure and develop the opportunities in our young people, many of those opportunities we will struggle to fill and many we will fill with people from outside the county and indeed sometimes from outside the country. “The plan is to get a much closer alignment between the way in which we provide education and training for our young people so we really do develop the skills and capabilities in our young people that are going to support the growth that’s so fundamental to our future prosperity. “One of the things I find most frustrating about that relationship of education and the business community is the number of people we interview here, young people, local people, who perhaps haven’t had the opportunities or the understanding to focus on where they can take their skills and develop their capabilities and potential for the future.
“We have begun to put much more effort into working with schools and universities to give children the opportunity of understanding what a career in the business environment means and what they need to develop to have the capabilities to be first in line to be recruited. “If there’s one objective I would like the business community to really grasp, it is that providing that understanding to students and school children where those opportunities lie and what they will need to focus on to really give them the opportunity to thrive and prosper going forward.”
“It is not just business leaders that want closer relationships with schools, it is also a priority for young people themselves.
“Young people in Worcester-shire also see the economy and jobs as the key priority for Next Generation and want to create much closer relationships between work and schools.
“Crucial to this is the opportunities for work experience and placements, so young people better understand the workplace and get earlier experience of business so they can contribute fully.
“If every business makes just one small step in that direction then the hundreds of businesses across the county really will a difference in the next 20-30 years.” Leaders are being asked to log on to wearethenextgeneration.co.uk or search Worc-estershire Next Generation on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. For more information, please contact Liz Sweetman at Severn Communications on 01905 795999 or email email@example.com
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