Council Leaders across North Kent are calling for greater opportunities to plug the local skills gap after a report identified key areas for improvement.
Greater North Kent – a collective voice for five local authorities – commissioned the Workforce Skills Evidence Base, which showed there was a skills gap locally amongst those in work and those who are currently unemployed.
The report found that despite North Kent having higher than average levels of growth and economic activity, it lagged behind the national picture when it comes to skills, qualifications and productivity. This has had a particular impact on key sectors such as construction, healthcare and food production, where skills and labour shortages are already well reported.
However, the report also found that there were limited opportunities for people in North Kent to gain new skills. It surmised that more teaching expertise and capacity was needed to address the skills gap, while engagement between employers, including small companies, and training providers, also needs to increase. The report identified six issues as priorities for action:
- The attainment gap (between North Kent and England average) at level 3 (A level equivalent) and level 4+ (higher education);
- Evolving the curriculum better to align skills training provision with the jobs market;
- Re-skilling, up-skilling and lifelong learning for adults already in or wishing to return to the jobs market;
- Better coordination, collaboration and integration of information and funding;
- Teaching expertise and capacity, particularly attracting people with up-to-date industry experience;
- Employer engagement, particularly to reach the small and medium sized companies that make up the vast majority of the business community.
In a joint statement, the Greater North Kent Leaders said:
“We want Greater North Kent to be at the forefront in bringing together industries, training providers and communities to ensure that businesses can attract local people with the right skills and communities can enjoy the many benefits that good quality education and skills bring.
“We have a dynamic and diverse economy, with many companies at the cutting edge in their field, and a highly talented workforce. Sadly, we also have too many people who are unemployed or struggling to fulfil their potential, and one of the reasons for that is poor skills.
“With new technology and working practices bringing changes to the workplace, we want those already in work to be able to re-skill where required to progress in the jobs of their choice, help raise productivity and seize new opportunities.
“Our report provides valuable evidence about the kinds of changes we need to see, particularly from companies wanting to maintain their competitive edge, from education, skills and training providers, and from Government that controls so many of the relevant policy and financial levers.
“We aim to work with stakeholders in North Kent to turn these findings and recommendations into tangible actions that will improve opportunities for residents and employers. We hope to publish the fruits of that work by the summer.”