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Minister: Local action is essential to prevent skills shortages

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John HealeySkills shortages need to be tackled at a local level if the needs of employers are to be met, Adult Skills Minister John Healey announced today.

New research from the Department for Education and Skills reveals a complex pattern of skills shortages and one that demands stronger local analysis and action.

The report, Skills, Local Areas and Unemployment, the most localised skills audit yet, shows there are links between recruitment difficulties and high employment, but that the relationship is not a simple one.

It emphasises the importance of regional and local variations in labour markets and makes clear that local action has to be tied to local needs if skills gaps are to be plugged:

The report says:

  • Skill shortages tend to be more common where there is high employment in the south, but the relationship is not straightforward;
  • There are areas mainly in London (central, north and west) where high levels of skills shortages coincide with relatively high unemployment;
  • Parts of northern England have higher than expected skill shortage levels despite relatively high unemployment.

John Healey said:

“This report shows that the ease with which employers find people with the right skills varies enormously, even within regions. It demonstrates the complexity of local labour markets and underlines the economic imperative for the new Learning and Skills Council to work with Regional Development Agencies to anticipate skill shortages and help tackle them where they arise.

“Different approaches are needed in different areas of the country for tackling skills shortages. For instance, we need to encourage a more mobile workforce in areas where there is already high employment. In other parts of the country where there is lower employment, there is evidence that a lack of relevant experience is a more pressing concern.

“We will be looking to the 47 new local Learning and Skills Councils to carry out effective skills assessments, using research like this, to make the best use of the £5.5 billion investment in learning we are directing through them and to meet local employers’ needs. Employers themselves need to think carefully about how they can boost the skills of their staff for the future to ensure their businesses remain productive and competitive.”

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