We have the skills

Interesting developments this month on the skills issue, and in particular around the role played by apprenticeships. Earlier in the year, Oxfordshire-based motorsport and automotive engineering group, Prodrive, made a high profile appeal for new engineers. Now it’s emerged that strong interest from Oxfordshire businesses has sparked a search for apprentices in another key sector. Oxford & Cherwell Valley College (OCVC) – the county’s leading provider of apprenticeship training – said it had up to 30 vacancies for catering apprentices with local hotels, restaurants and Oxford colleges, as well as 15 with engineering businesses.

With unemployment in Oxfordshire running in the thousands, and worryingly high numbers of young people not in education or training, it’s troubling business leaders and educationalists alike that these recruitment gaps exist.

One potential source of extra people was highlighted this month by Wellers Accountants. The Oxfordshire-based firm say they’re definitely seeing more school leavers considering vocational training instead of University, with increased fees cited as the number one reason.

Meanwhile, Skills Minister, John Hayes, has announced a package of measures to make it easier for employers to take on large numbers of apprentices. He says payments will be simplified, contracts streamlined and a number of data returns and audit requirements eliminated. OCVC Principal, Sally Dicketts says the effectiveness of those measures will depend on their actual impact: “Cutting red tape and reducing administration where it hinders training, education and skills development is always welcome,” she says. “But for a county like Oxfordshire where the vast majority of businesses are micro, small or medium-sized, it is crucial that any measures to boost apprenticeships work for them too.”

Standing back – and taking the situation at its simplest level – we have the people, the training capacity and the vacancies. Matching the three ought not to be beyond us.

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