Skills Shortage Will Cause Future Issues; Analysis in Association with RBS the North-East Has a Bigger Skills Gap Than Much of the Country. Andrew Mernin Looks at What Is Being Done to Fill the Gap

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Byline: Andrew Mernin

DESPITE the efforts of local authorities and the region's mass employers the North-East still falls short when it comes to skills in the workplace.

A reliance on now diminished heavy industries and a high proportion of long-term unemployment are just some of the reasons given by corporate experts.

According to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) 21% of North-East businesses have a skills gap compared to the national average of 16%.

Meanwhile only 79% of working age adults in the region have literacy at Level 1 or above compared to the English average of 84%.

However there are signs that things are beginning to change as Prime Minister Gordon Brown has put 'up-skill the nation' at the top of his to do list.

In July this year the Government released its Leitch Implementation of Skills plan which is aimed at turning the UK into a leader in skills by 2020.

The plan was a response to Lord Leitch's 2006 report which set out a series of ambitious targets such as increase annual enrolment on apprenticeships in the UK to 500,000.

This is no mean feat when you consider this figure currently stands at 258,282. In this region it is estimated that 70,000 new jobs will be created by 2016 so we need skills and we need them fast.

Fortunately there are a number of bodies across the North-East that are spearheading the bid to bring the region up to scratch.

One such organisation is the LSC which is leading the battle against the region's skills shortage.

As the group's skills director, Michael Mitchell is the man charged with Lord Leitch's groundwork in the North-East.

He admits the targets set out by the Government are ambitious and that the region does suffer from a number of hindrances when it comes to skills development.

While he praises the work of some of the region's larger organisations he says there are some common misconceptions made by smaller companies when it comes to training. …