CBI warns of imminent “skills emergency” for UK businesses

Apprenticeships not enough to plug the gap, says business body

Government initiatives to create more apprenticeships will not do enough to tackle an impending skills crisis for UK businesses, the CBI has warned.

According to a survey carried out by the CBI and education company Pearson, two thirds of businesses said their need for employees with higher skills levels is expected to rise sharply.

The survey comes just after Chancellor George Osborne announced a new levy for businesses that will fund vocational training.

But the CBI said that though this could boost the numbers of apprenticeships, it is not enough to plug the skills gap at higher levels.

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said the situation amounted to a “skills emergency”, and was “threatening to starve economic growth,” the FT reports.

She said: “Worryingly, it’s those high-growth, high-value sectors with the most potential which are the ones under most pressure. That includes construction, manufacturing, science, engineering and technology.

“The new levy may guarantee funding for more apprenticeships, but it’s unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs.”

The CBI’s call for action was supported by the City of London Corporation.

Mark Boleat, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, said: “The survey highlights that urgent action is required to boost the skills of young people. Too many employers have to fill the gaps of patchy careers advice at the recruitment stage. For a successful outcome, this intervention needs to happen much earlier.

“The link between businesses and schools needs to be strengthened to raise awareness of high skilled jobs and how young people can develop the capabilities to secure them. Pupils also need more frequent exposure to the workplace so they fully understand the practical and ‘real life’ applications of their studies. Without this business intervention, there will be a continued mismatch between what is taught in the classroom and the skills employers desperately need.”

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