Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Apprentices Are the Only Way to Fill the Growing Skills Gap

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Apprentices Are the Only Way to Fill the Growing Skills Gap

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Kelly Social Affairs Correspondent

FIRMS in the North East are calling on the Government to help them create more apprenticeships to deal with a growing skills gap.

They want reforms introduced for new programmes to meet specific business needs, cut red tape and route grants directly to employers.

They also want schools to boost the core skills of literacy and numeracy of youngsters at primary level, while improving their links with firms for pupils aged 14 through to students in higher education to make them more business "ready".

The demand for change was detailed in the 2014 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, to which 291 businesses contributed, including 90 which employ people in the North East.

It found that firms in the region have a growing need for higher skills with 82% of those asked expecting demand to increase in the next three to five years.

However, 68% of the companies said they were not confident they will be able to access enough highly skilled workers to meet their needs.

In all, 70% of firms in the North East which already run apprenticeships plan to increase them in the years ahead. But many are still reluctant to get involved, leading to the demand for reforms which would make firms more likely to take on apprentices.

Dianne Sharp, CBI North East regional director, said: "It's increasingly clear that the North East faces a shortage in skilled technicians in the years ahead if we fail to create more chances for young people leaving education and for existing workers.

"Apprenticeships can help benefit the local economy but also tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

"The North East has been a driving force in the UK's economic recovery and if we are to build on this, we need a highly skilled workforce to meet growing demand from local firms. …

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