Improving the Regions Skills Base is Vital to Staying Competitive is a Post Brexit World

18th October 2016

Businesses and the government must work together to improve the skills of their workforce to keep the UK competitive, a major business event heard.

SMEs need to take more responsibility and offer more training opportunities, particularly for apprentices, and not be reliant on low-skilled workers. The Sheffield City Region Quarterly Economic Survey Breakfast, held at the Vulcan to the Sky hangar, provided the results showing a mixed picture for the regional economy over the past three months since the EU referendum. Manufacturing firms responded with a more positive outlook than service businesses. The results compiled from over 350 business responses and presented by Prof. Andrew Simpson, Sheffield University Management School, showed the most difficult category of jobs to recruit for remains professional and managerial in the service sector and skilled manual workers for manufacturing - suggesting a skills gap in the region. Both sectors continue to invest in training, which shows that both service and manufacturing companies are trying to address their indicated skills shortage. Apprenticeships are the preferred route for recruitment over graduate internships and short term work placements. Paul Swinney, principle economist for the think tank, Centre for Cities highlighted in his keynote speech to over 150 business leaders the importance of high skilled jobs in the Sheffield City Region. He warned that the North faces challenges as the UK prepares to leave the EU and that the region relies too heavily on low-skilled jobs. The North does not perform well in terms of skills relative to the rest of Europe and that will have an impact on attracting business investment. He urged policymakers and businesses to start attracting a higher skilled workforce to the area which would have a positive impact on economic performance and investment. Dan Fell, chief executive officer of Doncaster Chamber, in his welcome speech called on Whitehall to support businesses on critical issues like skills, education, and supporting young talent. The panel discussion, facilitated by Greg Wright, deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post, between some of South Yorkshire's leading business figures agreed that SMEs need to take more responsibility in training their workforce, particularly apprentices, making them more highly skilled. Further, Britain must not talk itself into a recession after the vote in favour of leaving the EU but use Brexit as a catalyst for policy shift and devolution. On the QES, sponsored by RBS South Yorkshire & North Derbyshire, Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of Sheffield City Region LEP, said: -The Quarterly Economic Survey plays an important part in shaping our policy and support for local businesses. I believe that hard data, contemporary commentary, case studies and testimonials should influence strategy and inform the Sheffield City Region's approach to local, regional and national decision makers and foreign direct investors. -Shaping policy, ensuring that businesses can compete domestically, globally and securing prosperity and a good return for the local community are core to our mandate. If we know the challenges, issues and opportunities, we can work as partners to deliver and be accountable for doing so. The full QES 2016 Q3 results are available at: www.screconomy.org.uk Take the next QES Q4 in November for a chance to win two flights to Paris, courtesy of Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

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