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Exclusive Business News Wales Feature: How Can Wales Prevent a Future Skills Shortage?

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With great emphasis being placed on preparing the next generation for the workplace of tomorrow. Business News Wales is pleased to welcome panelists from across multiple sectors to discuss ‘How can Wales prevent a future skills shortage?’

BNW - Mark HindmarshSmart Anchor Ventures

Mark Hindmarsh | Director

Wales has the raw talent we just need to nurture it and create the right environment and opportunities to let it flourish.

Developing skills for the future could take a decade or more and for our youngsters the process has to start with our 10 and 11 year olds. Exposing them to a wider set of future career opportunities early on in school will help aspire them to understand what hard and soft skills they require to achieve their employment ambitions and how they go about obtaining those skills.

As a nation we can’t solely rely on parents and our educational establishments to deliver a skilled workforce of the future, (they of course provide the core foundations). What we need are businesses and industry to better understand what their future organisational skill requirements are and then they must be prepared to invest to create their workforce of the future by training and up-skilling individuals through occupational work placements, apprenticeships and internships.

As someone who left school at 16 with just 2 O’ levels, but who was then fortunate to secure a 4 year electronics engineering apprenticeship, I was delighted to hear the Welsh Government’s announcement earlier this month stating that it aims to help deliver 100,000 new Welsh apprentices over the next 5 years. I believe it’s a realistic target for Wales and is one that could be exceeded, but only if Welsh businesses and industry across the regions step up to the plate!

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douglas-haig-rla-13-feb-158x120Residential Landlords Association (RLA)

Douglas Haig | Vice Chairman

Unfortunately in some areas we are very much already suffering a skills shortage.  In the short term there needs to be a much stronger tie up between the training colleges and local industry.  Small businesses feel that such a tie up is only possible if you are a large corporation but working with colleges to help place those that have the right skills can really help and more needs to be done to make these relationships happen.  Long term we need to have regular forums to ensure that colleges and higher education is offering the skills and courses that local businesses needs as well as ensuring courses are offered for existing staff that are relevant to their day-to-day role.

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david-jamesHudman Solutions

David James | Managing Director

Hudman is a knowledge based business. We rely upon the skills and experience of our staff to ensure continuous innovation and that our software products are up-to-date, reliable and relevant to the SME manufacturing industries we serve.

We anticipate that over the next 10 years, a large portion of our new recruits will have graduated from a Welsh university, and Wales needs to ensure that we retain as many graduates as possible. Wales has the lowest level of graduate retention of the devolved nations, with only 70% of our university leavers remaining in Wales after graduation.

The Welsh Assembly Government has recently attempted to promote the creative and IT industries in Wales through a number of grant initiatives and start-up funds and this must be continued in order to create the jobs necessary to retain our university leavers.

Our universities are providing a steady stream of skilled Welsh graduates, many of whom are financially supported by the Welsh Assembly Government throughout their studies, so we need to make sure that we can hold onto as many of these graduates as we possibly can if we are to avoid a skills shortage in years to come. The coal mines are distant memory and we need to ensure that Wales can grow and prosper in a rapidly changing global marketplace.

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daTaff Housing

Elaine Ballard | Chief Executive

One of the big issues for us as a Housing Provider, is an ageing workforce in construction and related fields. We know that there are several major infrastructure projects in the pipeline, which will be labour hungry. We also know that in our own sector, we could face a skills shortage due to retirement – CITB figures in 2016 showed 700,000 skilled workers in the UK are due to retire in the next 10 years. Added to this, Brexit could result in EU workers leaving Britain.

So, what is the answer? We must use the apprenticeship levy in Wales in a strategic and targeted way – developing skills, offering incentives etc. so that we have a pipeline of skilled workers to deliver the aspirations of a healthy and vibrant economy.  We need to look at apprenticeships not just in construction, but in tech industries, life sciences and other high value areas. If Wales is seen as a having a highly skilled workforce, it’s one more tick in the box as to why businesses should invest here.

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sophia-cps

CPS Group

Sophia Hunter-Hall | Talent Manager

I firmly believe in ensuring a robust training plan is in place for each employee and that it is intrinsically tied to their aims and aspirations. As such the training is not only relevant to their career trajectory, it is also key in retaining their interest in their role and consequently in improving the potential ROI of their newly acquired skillset to the business.

Without this tailored approach, skills will continue to be irrelevant to the individual’s, as well as the company’s, long term goals; injuring the economy in Wales.

Similarly, it is vital that entry level employees are provided with a robust framework to develop within, with tailored training to their chosen career.

With this in mind CPS Group have recently launched an Apprenticeship Scheme, where entry level staff will be trained effectively, whilst attaining qualifications in the process.

The Welsh Government are proactively looking to address the skills shortage at entry level through the creation of their Apprenticeship Skills Policy Plan. Drawing a parity between vocational and academic qualifications ensures employees receive a clearly defined and relevant training plan that focuses on tangible work-based skills, with the benefit of a highly regarded qualification attributed to those skills. This can directly benefit employee wellbeing as well as the eventual eradication of skill shortages in Wales.

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graham-morganBusiness Doctors Cardiff

Graham Morgan | Director

As we move towards 2020 private sector business owners in Wales will have to invest in ensuring their work force has the skills required to perform in their specific work place. An effective ‘People’ plan would be the basis to have a clear understanding of:

  • Existing staff that need to be retained
  • Those who need to be re-trained on a progressive basis.
  • Individuals that should be released as no longer contributing to the journey of the business.
  • Gaps that need to be recruited into.
  • Reward and Recognition approach.

Alongside there will need to be a stronger than ever before relationship between academia in its various facets and employers. Provision of learning experience and skills development that meets the needs of business rather than courses and modules that primarily aim at putting ‘bums on seats’.

Wales can prevent a future skills shortage by effective planning. That plan will need to map the type of roles that will be required in a work place that is being transformed by technology advancement. By focusing on certain sectors with high prospect for growth:

  • Advanced Materials & Manufacturing.
  • Construction
  • Financial & professional Services
  • ICT – Digital Tech(including cyber)

The Welsh Government has provided direction. The schools and careers service does need to work with youngsters to help them plot their journey into the world of work. Alongside employees across Wales need to be helping by profiling the type of roles they will need  to be successful but perhaps more importantly make themselves attractive to the employee of the future. Only an estimated 13% of SME’s have effective employee engagement systems in place and this really is a missed opportunity to really connect with existing employees to understand their needs and aspirations. When run with an effective appraisal system that can provide the foundation for future skills planning.

Over recent years we have seen an influx of skilled and un-skilled labour from Europe and many Business owners have found huge benefit in drawing upon a wider base. That will need to continue in some form given the anticipated gaps between the number of people living in Wales that are of working age and the likely needs of businesses.

Business owners have for some time been reporting challenges with recruiting certain skills especially in engineering, ICT and middle management. Many have found innovative solutions to solve their specific challenge. Ultimately an employer will find it much more difficult to go into the market and just recruit staff if they have not undertaken proactive work to plan for their needs and work with a pillion to get their skills to where they need them.

In summary a clear plan setting our what is likely to be needed in terms of skills and how you develop them will set businesses apart and make the more proactive more attractive to folks who want to develop their skills.