Co-operation is vital to addressing the Mersey skills gaps, Wirral event hears

More than 80 business people, public sector leaders and representatives from education attended Wirral Chamber of Commerce panel event. Tony McDonough reports

Wirral Chamber
Wirral Chamber chief executive, back row, far right, with other members of the panel

 

Better co-operation between the employers and education is vital if the skills gap in Merseyside is to be addressed.

That was the consensus view at an In Business event organised by Wirral Chamber of Commerce and attended by more than 80 business people, public sector leaders and representatives from education.

Mark Basnett, head of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) outlined the main issue. He said the LEP had identified the skills gap as one of the biggest barriers to growth in the region

He said: “Students are struggling with the transition from education to employment and this is reflected in low employment rates for 16  to 24-years-olds. The question we need to ask is how do we improve on that? Our response is crucial to the future economic success of the region and our workforce.”

Apprenticeship Levy

Damian Burdin, from training provider, Progress to Excellence, talked about the Apprenticeship Levy. He said, “The levy raises around £2.5bn annually to be spent on training apprentices and also allows contributors to share their funds with smaller businesses in their supply chain.

“By re-utilising levy underspend we can build a better skilled workforce and keep those workers employed locally to the benefit of the economy.”

Paul Vicars, headteacher of Birkenhead School spoke of its commitment to open up a broader avenue of access to further education and the need to change perceptions of the apprenticeship programme.

He explained: ““Modern apprenticeships have changed greatly and provide a direct route into the widest range of careers, including areas such as law, accountancy and engineering.

“What perhaps is missing from the apprenticeship equation is a centralised one-stop shop to coordinate and administrate employers and applicants.”

Building partnerships

Another education professional, Chris Finn of Liverpool John Moores University, explained how the university is building partnerships with industry that will work for both students and employers.

Employers can contribute to course design and to create students who are better skilled and more ready for the workplace, he said.

This was welcomed by Joanne Finnerty of JF Recruitment, who added: “Work experience on a CV is important, many candidates have excellent academic records and commendable results but employers want to see that work experience that shows candidates have relevant life skills and work ethic to ease them into a job role.”

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