New talent needed - but where will it come from?

London businesses expect to increase the number of high skilled employees but are concerned about skills shortages whilst countrywide there are calls for more vocational skills training at university.

Apprentices in a workshop
The vast majority of businesses in London anticipate an increase in the number of higher-skilled vacancies in the coming years, but more than half fear there will be a shortage of sufficiently talented individuals to fill these roles, according to a new survey.

CBI survey anticipates skills gap

The survey, conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson Business School found that 77.6 per cent of businesses in London expect to increase the number of higher-skilled employees, yet 57.1 per cent do not know where these people will come from.Publication of the survey coincided with a report from the manufacturers' organisation EEF, which urged Britain’s universities to include vocational learners, rather than prioritising academic pupils, to ensure employers have the specialist skills they will need in the future.The 2018 CBI/Pearson education and skills survey, ‘Educating for the Modern World’, found that an increasing proportion of London employers increased graduate recruitment last year with about four-fifths regarding a 2:1 degree as a good measure of academic ability.

Employers are looking for both academic and personal skills

"However, our survey also found that businesses look first and foremost for aptitude and readiness for work, with 37.5 per cent of employers highlighting these factors as the most important consideration when recruiting school, college and university leavers," said Pearson."Furthermore, 72.4 per cent employers ranked wider behaviours and attributes such as resilience, problem-solving and team work, as among their top three considerations when reviewing applicants. Developing these skills should therefore remain a priority for schools, colleges and universities."

Apprenticeship schemes lead to recruitment in manufacturing

Following the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, the report highlighted a drop in the number of firms in London offering apprenticeship programmes, from 86.2 per cent in 2017 to 58.4 per cent in 2018.Almost half of firms said they had experienced difficulty in recruiting apprentices, or expect to do so in the next three years.However, the nationwide survey by EEF found that, among manufacturing companies, almost three-quarters of companies reported recruiting apprentices this year, up from two-thirds four years ago.

Calls for universities to focus more on vocational training

Calling on universities to "cast their net much wider" to include vocational learners rather than prioritising academic pupils, EEF said the data highlighted "the vital need to meet skills shortages at craft and technician level, as well as bringing fresh young talent into the sector".Verity Davidge, head of education and skills policy at EEF, said, “With a lack of technical skills continuing to drive recruitment problems, apprenticeships are firmly in the spotlight to fix this challenge. Offering the perfect mix of technical knowledge, skills and training, apprenticeship programmes are ticking all the right boxes for manufacturers. As a result we are seeing these numbers take off, while graduate programmes are on a downward descent.“Universities and the wider higher education sector need to be alive to these trends as more and more employers and young people are now opting for vocational pathways that can offer a degree qualification at the end. As such they must open their doors to vocational learners, including T-Level students in the near future, and put an end to prioritising academic pupils.”According to the EEF survey, almost three-quarters of companies plan to recruit apprentices in 2019 compared to 66 per cent in 2014. By contrast, the number planning to recruit graduates has fallen to 34 per cent compared to two-thirds in 2014.
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