Cumbria STEM skills shortage is 'ticking timebomb'

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Contractors, especially those in the engineering sector, could find themselves in high demand in Cumbria over the coming years, as the region faces a skills shortage that has been described as a 'ticking timebomb'.

University of Cumbria vice chancellor Peter Strike told in-cumbria that the high amount of investment coming into the area is a cause for concern due to the relatively small population.

There has been over £600 million poured into just two nuclear businesses and understandably this is causing Cumbria to hurtle head-first into a skills gap.

"It makes your eyes water to think that all of these investments will be supported by a population of just 500,000 people," Mr Strike told the news provider.

"The skills projections are challenging, we need 90,000 skilled people, there’s a new nuclear build, ongoing decommissioning at Sellafield, and even potentially a new tidal lagoon."

Part of the solution, according to the chancellor, is getting more students into key subjects such as engineering. He is confident that his university can train larger numbers of undergraduates in these areas, but youngsters need to be motivated to move into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

To help solve the problem, the University of Cumbria is developing a new £1.2 million teaching programme of STEM courses and a high-spec laboratory in Carlisle, in-cumbria reported.

Of course, developing the required number of skilled individuals in time to bridge the gap is a challenge and an interim solution needs to be put in place.

Contractors will prove vital; offering organisations the flexible labour they need to grow and develop.

What's more, the experience offered by the self-employed is valuable for giving new employees the training and practical knowledge required to operate effectively within a particular role.

Of course Cumbra isn't the only part of the country where skills are required. The Barclays Employers Survey 2015 showed that engineering professionals are in need in the Midlands. In fact, 52 per cent of businesses partaking in the survey claimed the majority of their skills shortages were in this competence area.

However, people are taking a positive outlook. Ray O’Donoghue, managing director of  Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “The West Midlands is leading the way on job creation this year, and increasing numbers of local businesses also plan to increase wages.

“This is positive news for employees as firms compete for talent but also, in the longer term, for businesses themselves as they look to ensure they are well-positioned for future growth opportunities.”

By Victoria McDonnell

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