Costs and time out of the business are the main obstacles preventing Somerset firms from upskilling staff or taking on apprentices.
Early findings from a skills survey by Somerset Chamber of Commerce found the cost of training, lack of Government funding and a perceived poor return on the money invested in training, were all putting businesses off.
More than 60% said they could not afford the time for staff to be out of their business for training, while others did not know how or where to find the appropriate training.
Somerset Chamber is currently working with Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce to run a joint Devon and Somerset Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), which is seen as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the region to produce a skilled workforce better matched to the needs of business.
A series of forums have been held across Somerset to give employers the chance to let education providers and the Government know the skills they need for the future success of their businesses.
According to the Chamber survey, businesses are reporting current skills gaps in sales and management and need both skilled staff and those with soft skills – good inter-personal skills such as communication, problem-solving and punctuality.
More than 60% believe a lack of soft skills will become an even greater problem in the future as will a shortage of those with digital skills.
Emma Rawlings, Chief Executive of the Somerset Chamber, said: “Our Local Skills Improvement Plan is all about placing employers at the heart of defining local skills needs, and it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Somerset and Devon businesses to have their say.
“The in-depth findings of this work will help us to ensure skills delivered by our universities, colleges and training providers match what businesses require for the future.
“We have been hearing the region’s businesses say they are being held back by a lack of skilled staff and the right courses to train existing employees – this plan offers the opportunity for employers to have their say and shape the skills provision of the future.”
Forums have already taken place across the county, with just two dates remaining for employers to have their say, including a final forum in Taunton which will include a summary of the findings so far:
- Tuesday, March 14: 2 – 4pm at Dunster Tithe Barn, TA24 6RY
- Wednesday, March 15: 2 – 4pm at Taunton Rugby Football Club, Taunton, TA2 8BU
The Devon and Somerset LSIP is funded by the Department for Education and the Chamber team will work with universities, colleges and training providers to ensure the voice of employers is at the forefront of a skills agenda.
More information is available on the website https://devonandsomersetlsip.co.uk/
Pictured above right at the launch of the Devon & Somerset LSIP, from left, are Somerset Chamber Chief Executive, Emma Rawlings, Katie Parrington, of Singer Instruments and Tracey Ashford, of Young Enterprise.