Laying the foundations for a skilled and productive workforce in the West of England

Kye Parkin
Communications Executive | Business West
30th October 2017

UK productivity has sunk to its lowest level since 2007, meaning that in order for the economy to grow, skills levels need to be drastically improved at a regional and national level.

It is a high priority for Government to not only match the skills base of the workforce with the growth demands of the UK economy, but also to ensure that the benefits of skilled local labour pools are shared equally across the country as a whole.

In the West of England region, Skills West, an initiative of Business West and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, which is funded by the European Social Fund and Education & Skills Funding Agency, is laying the foundations for achieving these aims.

Having identified disconnects between residents, education providers and local businesses, Skills West provides a collaborative platform for closing skills gaps and challenges in the region through the promotion of joined up thinking.

In addition to providing impartial skills advice and working with colleges and businesses to create a better understanding of the benefits of training and up-skilling staff including apprenticeships, a wider, long-term aim of Skills West (beyond these immediate impacts) is to ensure skill levels in the region are fit for the challenges of the future way past the project’s culmination in July 2018.

To set in motion future skills developments in the West of England, Skills West has launched a large-scale survey of the region’s employers to find out what training and skills they need to thrive. 

The survey, which is open to businesses located in the Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire local authority areas, needs to collect responses from local business to accurately predict the future skills requirements of the region.

Businesses are encouraged to take part in the survey as its findings will form a cornerstone of the West of England Combined Authority’s (WECA) and West of England LEP’s forthcoming strategic economic plan – a policy document to guide how £1bn worth of additional funding from central government will be spent across the region, particularly around skills investment.

Skills West project lead, Nicky Williams, Head of Skills, Business West, comments:

“When we talk about skills we are actually talking about people. Everyone in the region has a vision for residents to benefit from more job opportunities, a stronger economy and higher quality of life. Without businesses having a long term investment in shaping skills strategy in the region and a say on how the devolved money is invested, we will always have a system that is driven by the funding and not the need.”

The survey represents an unprecedented opportunity for local businesses across the West of England to help shape the skills agenda, enabling them to overcome longstanding recruitment issues and to directly/indirectly benefit from the funds made available to WECA from 2018. Nicky Williams continues:

“Most businesses will have struggled at some point to find the right people to do the job. Whether it’s due to a lack of resources, a lack of suitable candidates or both, the business skills and training survey will help identify the key challenges and some ways to overcome these issues for a generation. It’s only by making our voices heard and having a joined up strategy that we will achieve this. I cannot stress enough though how relevant the epithet ‘those who do not ask, do not get’ is here. This is your chance to solve the recruitment and talent development issues that hold your business and the region back. Do not miss this opportunity, please offer your generous responses by taking the survey today.”

Every company that completes the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win £200, £75 or £50 Amazon or Cabot Circus gift vouchers (T&Cs apply).

To complete the survey please click here.

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