Government '˜has failed to get a grip on skills crunch'

THE UK's ability to be a major player in the digital industrial revolution is at risk because the Government has failed to get to grips with the manufacturing skills crunch, according to a report published today.

Andy Tuscher
Andy Tuscher

The study from the manufacturers’ organisation the EEF concludes that three quarters of UK manufacturers are still struggling to recruit skilled staff.

The EEF said the number of hard-to-fill vacancies in manufacturing remains “static and stubbornly high” at 35 per cent.

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Andy Tuscher, the Yorkshire and Humber region director at EEF, said: “Despite multiple warnings about the UK’s yawning skills gap, the dial hasn’t moved since 2012.

“Manufacturers continue to struggle to find the right
people with the right skills – undoubtedly this has led to lost opportunities for employers, would-be employees and the UK economy.

“Had manufacturers not already been taking action, we would arguably already be over the cliff-edge, and not just approaching it.

“But this report contains a clear warning – we are just about treading water today and the struggle is only going to get harder.

“The demand for skills is going to soar in response to manufacturers’ productivity plans. Getting the right quantity and quality in place will be critical, which is why we are urging the Government to take firm action now.”

Mr Tuscher said that the Government must match the ambitions of industry and ensure that the education and training system delivers the skills that employers require.

He added “Policies must help, not hinder firms. They should provide support, rather than hitting employers with additional costs that could potentially hold them back.

“Above all, an April 2017 start date for the apprenticeship levy is looking increasingly ambitious. A patched and piecemeal implementation will cause complexity and confusion for employers, apprentices and providers alike. Without a single, coherent levy platform ready well before April 2017, the levy launch risks sinking.”

The report calls on the Government to scrap the proposed immigration skills charge and introduce grants to tackle under-representation in apprenticeships.

In the long-term, the EEF report said that targets should be set for secondary schools in connection with the number of their Key Stage 4 pupils who go on to take up apprenticeships.