Cambs Council Leader says skilled youngsters will look outside of Fenland if they don’t get opportunities locally

SKILLED young people will vote with their feet and look outside of Fenland if they don’t get opportunities locally, says county council leader Jill Tuck.

She was responding to a survey that found two fifths of Fenland firms say there’s no reason to improve their workers’ skills levels and a “few GCSEs are sufficient for their core needs”.

Cllr Tuck says the Fenland District Council Business Survey findings “do not always chime with the discussions that the county council has had with employers about their immediate skills needs.”

Neither, she says, do they fit in with discussions they’ve had with local employers for the “long term aspirations for the development of the local Fenland economy.

“Skilled young people will look elsewhere if there are not opportunities for them in Fenland.”

Cllr Tuck said the Fenland 14-19 Partnership had identified a growing demand for level 2 and level 3 qualifications amongst employers.

Employers’ requirements were important, she said, but equally the long term financial outcomes for young people “are closely linked to their level of education”.

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“There will always be a need for a range of skill levels amongst any local workforce,” she said.

“However, Lord Leitch, in his World Class Skills report, recognised the importance of higher level skills as a central driver of future economic growth and prosperity. “Innovation, flexibility and competitiveness are more important than ever and are associated with a skilled workforce. Skilled young people will look elsewhere if there are not opportunities for them in Fenland.

“We believe it is important to work with businesses to support Fenland to move from a position of ‘low business density, low competition levels and low skills levels’ to a position of high business density, high competition levels and high skills levels.”

TWO fifths of Fenland firms say there’s no reason to improve the skills levels of their workers.

And around half the businesses who took part in the Fenland District Council Business Survey believe “a few GCSEs are sufficient for their core needs.”

The report concludes that “that ambitions and focus on learning needs to be strengthened within employers as well as the workforce.”

“A high proportion of businesses do not need skills levels higher than level 2 for any position in their business” says the report. “A significant number place a high emphasis on basic competencies and reliability”.

Sales and care businesses are most likely to have problems with recruitment “yet employers don’t tend to require high skills. Skilled trades and business services sectors tend to require high level skills- retail and tourism sectors tend to require the lowest skills.”

The report adds: “Only a small proportion of businesses felt they did not have the right skills to move forward.

“Despite a range of recent evidence indicating low skills levels in the area, only 40 per cent of respondents felt they needed skills levels in their workforce to be improved.”

The report also concludes that “low business density, low competition levels and low skills levels in Fenland have meant that many businesses focus on filling a small market niche within the area and do not have extensive growth and development plans.

“Only 43 per cent of businesses responding to the survey have a learning and development plan, suggesting that many businesses cannot have a clear idea of current and future skills needs.”

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