Closing the Skills Gap to Improve North West Prosperity: Demystifying Skills.

On Thursday 23rd November the NWBLT were delighted to work in partnership on a skills event in Salford alongside the Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and Pro Manchester. The event was called “Demystifying Skills” the goal was to bring together those in the education sector with businesses.

Chairing this event was Sandy Lindsay, NWBLT Skills Task Group Chair and CEO of Tangerine and the Juice Academy. There is a clear skills gap and a major part of this is the miscommunication between educators and business. One of the speakers, Gemma Marsh from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Skills group addressed this saying:

“Skills means so many things to so many people. But we all want the same thing, a productive economy.”

It is clear that business often talks in a different language to educators and vice versa. What this event aimed to do was to bring down some of the barrier by “demystifying” much of the language and complex issues that surround skills.

Skills are crucial for the long-term success of the North West economy. Brexit will only serve to highlight how necessary it is for us to have sufficient “home-grown” talent to fill the jobs of the near and distant future. The NWBLT are fully aware of the need to close the present and future skills gaps. This is exemplified in our Skills Charter. This report highlights how we can close the gap and work in a collaborative way to make a positive difference to the lives of young people in our region.

One of the most difficult challenges in solving the skills gap is to look at what skills will be in demand in the future. Clare Hutchinson, of the Careers and Enterprise Company, expressed how difficult talking to young people about jobs of the future is, because many jobs in the next ten to forty years do not even exist today.

“Asking a young person what they want to be when they grow up is like [me] asking you to think of a colour you’ve never seen before.”

Closing the skills gap is not going to be easy. Part of the problem is that businesses struggle to express to educators and policy- makers the skills they need. This is partially because businesses can only predict so far what the jobs of the future will be. However, if we work to build strong relationships between schools and businesses, between teachers and business leaders and between schools trusts and local business organisations we can more easily solve any future skills gaps through collaboration. These relationships can be built by mentoring schemes, apprenticeships, work experience placements or direct engagement with schools.

Filling the skills gap will benefit young people, schools, wider society as well as business. If problems can be resolved through collaboration then this is something we, as business leaders, ought to embrace.

Following the event in Salford, Demystifying skills will tour across the North West in the New Year. Please keep an eye on the NWBLT website event page for upcoming dates and other skills events.