Businesses across the Marches are being urged to support a research project that could revolutionise skills training in the region.
The Government-funded Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) aims to gain a better understanding of the area’s skills training requirements over the next three to five years.
It is being led locally by Shropshire Chamber of Commerce and will target specific sectors across the including engineering, manufacturing, professional services, construction, environmental technologies, and health & social care.
Marches LSIP project manager Rosie Beswick said: “We have been selected by the Department for Education to undertake this work across the Marches area, which covers Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, and Herefordshire.
“Through a combination of questionnaires, text polls, and one-to-one interviews – all in total confidence – we want to discover how businesses are coping with staff recruitment and skills shortages.
“We need to engage with as many employers as possible, to ensure this vital information-gathering exercise is relevant and truly reflective of the whole economy.”
Rosie said the LSIP project had been sparked by a new Government White Paper that sets out an ambitious plan to put employers firmly at the heart of the skills system.
“It is absolutely crucial, in the current economic climate, that businesses and workers have access to the skills they need, to thrive and progress. Many employers are telling us that this is simply not the case at the moment.”
Among the Marches businesses to have already contributed to the research, one global manufacturer said: “Marketing and Ecommerce skills, at a good level, are not easy to find and the training is not keeping pace with the changes in the way companies sell and market in 2023.
“The course standards are lower than we would hope and we have had to look overseas to outsource to find the skills we need.”
One large food manufacturer which has already responded to the survey said Brexit had made the food production industry “an industry struggling for staff”.
Another rural manufacturer said: “Being rurally-based means we have far fewer workers to call on which is a real headache, but those born and bred in agricultural settings have a skill set that sadly we see less and less of in others.”
Rosie said things could only change for the better if decision-makers had a clear understanding of current gaps in training provision, barriers to access training, and the suitability of the education curriculum to prepare students for the 21st century business world.
“This is an exciting opportunity to bring together employers, training providers and other key stakeholders at a time of great need.
“We’re working closely with our colleagues at Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber on the Marches LSIP project, and want to connect with as many businesses as possible over the next couple of months.”
There is also more information about the LSIP project on the policy and representation page of the Shropshire Chamber website, www.shropshire-chamber.co.uk/policy-representation