More mentoring in the workplace, access to training funding for SMEs and more employer involvement in skills bootcamps are just some of the recommendations in a report aimed at aligning future education provision with the needs of business.
Somerset Chamber of Commerce carried out a series of forums with employers, education and training providers, alongside one-to-one meetings and an online survey as part of the Government-based Devon and Somerset Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP).
The aim was to find out what employers needed to access a skilled labour market and to ensure future school-leavers and graduates were equipped with the sills needed for current and future labour markets.
Working with Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, the research culminated in the publication of a detailed LSIP plan for skills and training, with 20 priority areas for action.
Priorities also include ensuring there is meaningful two-way communication between business and education providers, improving digital skills in education and recognising that using digital technology is now an essential requirement for everyone at work.
Somerset Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Emma Rawlings, said: “The Devon and Somerset Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) is a starting point to finally crack our skills provision struggles.
“Over the past months, we have spoken with employers representing a wide spectrum of sectors.
“Despite the variety of business types, they are almost all universally challenged by barriers which prevent them from accessing the right kind of skills training for their needs.
“Our LSIP is not just a survey to produce yet another report. It is about addressing the barriers to skills and challenges that hold our region back and putting the foundations in place to fill them.”
In Somerset specifically, three-quarters of businesses said specialist and technical skills were currently lacking, while leadership, sales and development and project management skills were also rated as important. Employability skills – time-keeping, interview techniques, CV-writing – were found to be lacking among prospective employees.
Looking to the future, 67% said employability skills would remain a much-needed skill, alongside digital and IT (65%) and specific technical skills and knowledge (64%).
Traditional construction trades and leadership, management and business skills were also highlighted as core skills.
However, half of Somerset respondents said there was currently a lack of suitable training courses to meet their needs, a third said training provision was too generalised, while transport difficulties, the cost of training and lack of funding, also posed problems.
The full plan, along with detailed feedback and case studies, can be viewed at devonandsomersetlsip.co.uk.