The need to address Yorkshire's skill shortage is urgent, here's what we can do - Rashmi Dube

From the moment the Second World War ended, all families simply wanted better for themselves. Children wanted better as they grew up. So why in 2021, according to the National Literacy Trust, are there “7.1 million people” that “can be described as having poor literacy skills” in England?

There are also anxieties growing about the amount of time children have missed in terms of school time, leading to concerns about which skills require further attention, particularly for the economically disadvantaged.

But the skills shortage and lack of training does not stop there. Long before anyone had heard of Covid-19, there had been and still continues to be screams from the business sector about the ever-growing skills shortage our country is facing.

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As the world leapfrogs globally with the adoption of digital, the demand for adequate skills in terms of the workforce has also leaped forward but from a position where we were already in deficit. With unemployment slowly on the increase and a high demand for skilled workers, surely now is the time to address the issue that has been pushed back in the shadows for far too long.

The skills shortage is real.

If we are to be at the cutting edge of innovation, environmental and social change, we need to invest now in the education system, vocational courses, and access to training to enable reskilling/upskilling our current workforce. We need to secure not only our competitive edge but, as a nation, there is a duty upon policymakers and enablers to ensure that the workforce and its children are adequately skilled to meet future and present needs.

The opportunity to help business and society cannot be missed as it would solve a number of issues.

In this present moment, a quarter of jobs are not being filled due to the skills shortage, which can only lead to further stagnation in productivity.

In addition, according to the CBI, it estimates nine out of ten workers will need to learn new skills for their own jobs by 2030, at a cost of £13bn annually”.

Digital skills are much needed.

Whilst data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows spending on adult education outside apprenticeships has fallen by two-thirds since 2003 in real terms.

We need to be careful and not say that the funds are not available or delay the process. The government did release a White Paper, Skills for Jobs: Lifelong learning for Opportunity and Growth in January 2021, acknowledging the case for change and setting out its plan for reform.

Writing for Yorkshire I would hope that some of the test pilots are run from this region.

But with all that has been said and done, no one appears to be talking about the unseen benefit to helping to reskill and upskill people, and ensuring the education system is addressing the basic skills required in today’s world and that is the C word – confidence.

I refer to confidence both with the individuals but also with businesses. Confidence has always been a measure in the market in terms of consumers and how they feel about the overall economy and their personal financial situation. Surely the same applies on some level with businesses.

If businesses are confident that not just reskilling/upskilling is taking place but also that there is a clear agenda being delivered with the upcoming workforce, they will have confidence in making better and different decisions. It enables boards to be more strategic and innovative with their products and services.

Confidence in how we proceed and develop our companies and people has always been a key driver, and the quicker we can restore this the better we will be as a nation.

We want to have a future to ensure that there is a baton to pass on to generations that follow. In a week where we have talked about duty, service and dedication, maybe we should take note from the Duke of Edinburgh’s life and say let us look to the future for what we need and build it now.