Many companies I come across say how they are suffering from a skills shortage as often they can’t recruit the right calibre of employee.  These companies are in all industry sectors particularly manufacturing and engineering, industries for which this country was once great.


The skills shortage is impacting on the UK’s ability to grow and compete in a global economy and needs to change for the future of our country.  The demand for certain skills moves with the times and is dependent on constant change whether caused through technological change, economic shifts, global movements or ageing populations.  The UK must move with the times and anticipate change.  


So what could be the cause of the current skills shortage?


One view is that schools are not linked to the needs of businesses and educating students accordingly.  Over the years we have seen the erosion of vocational-based courses in favour of developing university-focused students so much so that we now have graduates who are unable to get a job because there is nothing to discern the differences between them apart other than the subject of their non-work focused degrees.  However, in schools one size does not fit all and many students have a vocational leaning, which is just not being met. 


On leaving school young people find there is no room for them in the world of work due to their lack of work-based skills.  It is often a struggle to create a worthwhile CV and those that do best have developed demonstrable skills through hobbies, Saturday jobs and volunteering.


Employers seem loathe to take on apprentices often being put off by strangling health and safety laws. 


On the other end of the age spectrum older workers also struggle due to employer prejudice and stereotyping  such as “ you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.  Interviewing panels can often be young twenty or thirty somethings who think anyone over 40 is past it.  Let them just wait till they reach 40 – will they still the same – I very much doubt it.


This discrimination in relation to age means that employees within the “golden” age range of 25-40 are much sought after.  They are recruited for their skills. 


However, once employed companies often withhold training and development opportunities.  They see training and development as a cost to the business, which when times are hard, they can ill afford.  Little do they realise that training and development will put them ahead of the game when the economy gets going again and anyway will keep them ticking over in the meantime adding to competitiveness.  Employees who do not feel valued and are not invested in will often leave creating an even bigger skills shortage for their ex-employer. 


For things to change the government, educational establishments and industry must all work together in partnership to improve the skills shortage in the UK.