Mind The Skills Gap

Our WBS Brexit Brief considers how essential skills in the UK workforce should be nurtured.

  • 10 August 2017
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Mind The Skills Gap

One of the central themes in the Brexit debate, which led to the British people deciding to leave the European Union, was immigration. EU nationals, it was repeatedly claimed, were taking jobs away from British workers. Suggestions were made that Britain should only allow in highly skilled foreign nationals – presumably because they would add to the British economy by helping to address the long recognised skills gap.

Take a look at the UK Shortage Occupations List on the UK VISA BUREAU’s website and you will see the kind of people who would be granted visa. Geotechnical Design Engineers, Soil Mechanics Engineer, Consultant Psychiatrists, Shade Writer, High Integrity Pipe Welder - and the list goes on, but it never mentions Fruit Picker, Hotel Receptionist, Cleaner, Warehouse Operative, Driver, Brick Layer….

The media are awash with statistics pointing to the skills gap as well as to the UK labour shortage. Statistics are interesting if you want to look back. If, however, you want to work out what to do for the future trends are far more important.

Here are a couple of trends, which are in stark contrast to what Official Britain believe the country needs:

•             EU nationals are quietly leaving Britain for their home country or another EU country leaving huge gaps in e.g. the food supply chain, manufacturing, hospitality, and construction

•             Fewer EU nationals are moving to the UK

•             A large proportion of HGV drivers are getting to retirement age and more people are leaving than entering the profession

The foreigners leaving the UK are the low to medium skilled workers largely doing the jobs British nationals are not keen to take.

We can talk and moan about the skills and labour gap and agree that somebody should do something about it. No point looking to the politicians at the moment. They seem more interested in their party political civil wars, than addressing the ridiculously complex issue of Brexit.

If people – foreign or British – are leaving their jobs or professions in greater numbers than those joining, what can we as organisations and employers do to reduce the gap?

Automation and robotics is one growth area. The intention being that machines can do the low-level jobs, that people do not want to do, or that employers find too expensive in labour cost. But what do we do with the people whose jobs have disappeared? Do we offer re-training or upskilling? Somebody has got to monitor and maintain the robots. Or perhaps people could be offered training in other areas experiencing skills shortages.

Drones and driverless delivery vans is another area where technology is making inroads albeit still some way off before meaningful deployment.

One big questions on every employer’s and politician’s lips is “Who is going to pay for this?” Who is going to pay for all the great ideas that will entice people to your company and that will make them stay. Shuttle busses, child care, training and education etc. etc.

The answer is probably that ultimately the consumer and the tax payer will pick up the bill.

Turn the question on its head and ask, “Who is going to pay for doing nothing?” As an employer, can you afford to not attract people to your organisation? When was the last time you asked your staff – at all levels – what would make them stay, apart from a huge pay cheque?

Then there is a whole new generation wanting to join the labour market. In fact, every year schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions release fresh and untested talent into the pool of candidates. What do we offer them?

It is time to stop looking to somebody else for action and get on with what is right for your organisation or industry.

WBS Group is currently working with Activate Learning and representatives from trade and industry to design relevant apprenticeships. Relevant not just to the employer, but also the apprentice. And apprentices come in all ages and backgrounds. School leavers, College leavers, disillusioned graduates, unemployed adults, adults who want to do something different, and ex-military service men and women joining civilian life and employment.

There’s a lot of grey hair in the group, acers of experience and an enormous appetite to get on with the job and engage both potential apprentices and their potential future employers to find models that work for both parties.

Using the freedom we now have do design apprenticeships is just one set of actions to address the skills and labour gap.

British employers can no longer rely on a steady stream of foreign nationals to fill the gap.

In our work within the full spectrum of supply chain, WBS ensures that skills and labour shortages are assessed and included in any proposals for and implementation of improvements.

To find out how WBS can assist you in optimising your business simply contact us http://www.wbsgroup.com/Contact for an initial FREE no obligation consultation.

You can also read more about the assessments we offer on our website http://www.wbsgroup.com/Services/Assessment 
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