BCC: Skills will decide who wins

Wednesday 5 February 2014

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is putting the focus on skills and claims that businesses that can source the talent they need will be victorious over the coming years.

Speaking at the launch of the body's 'Skills and Employment Manifesto', Nora Senior, president of the BCC, said: "Skills will decide who wins and who loses in a 21st century economy – yet employers across the UK constantly say they struggle to find prospective employees, particularly those leaving education, who have the right skills to succeed in the workplace."

The lack of highly skilled professionals has caused sole traders, umbrella contractors and limited companies to find themselves in high demand.

Indeed, contract numbers and rates are on the rise, as businesses compete to secure the best talent.

However, temporary workers are only able to plug the gap and a long-term solution is needed to ensure the UK is able to thrive in the future.

According to the BCC, there is currently a skills mismatch, partly due to a lack of proper education.

The body claims employers constantly tell it that there is a disparity between what they are looking for in their staff and the skills, experience and attitude offered by prospective candidates.

Consequently, it is calling for the government to place 'employability' skills at the heart of how schools are assessed and rated. Qualifications for literacy, numeracy, computing and foreign languages must also be clearer, consistent  and universally understood.

This must be supported by investment in a good standard of careers education for all youngsters. Regular contact with a variety of employers should be included in this to ensure schoolchildren have a high level of awareness.

"Although we believe that successive governments have failed our young people by not properly equipping them for their future careers, it is time to break away from the blame game," Ms Senior said.

"Various organisations and sectors continue to blame each other for a lack of ‘work readiness’ among young people, but it is time for everyone to accept some responsibility, and find ways to move forward."

BCC also claims it should be used to offer independent advice and support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to encourage investment in apprenticeships and workplace training.

Meanwhile, the body proposes introducing tax incentives for the development of foreign language and export skills.

What's more, employment policy should become the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, while universities should work with the Chambers of Commerce to promote careers and skills among students.

The BCC concludes that employers should be given a choice on how they receive government funding, be it through the tax system or via a training provider.

This raft of measures will be crucial to ensure businesses are able to thrive. Ms Senior claims those employers unable or unwilling to get the skills they need to support growth will find themselves losing customers.

"Simple measures, such as investing in quality careers education, making employability a key measure for schools, and supporting interaction between pupils and local employers, will deliver more jobs and growth in the long-term," she said.

By Victoria McDonnell

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