Engineering skills vacancies in the West Midlands are costing the regional economy £141m a year according to the latest research from Semta, the skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.
The news comes as sector employers are urged to stave off the economic downturn by improving the skills of their workforce through productivity and competitiveness training and a £65m sector funding deal for companies based in England.
The new report, entitled Engineering Skills Balance Sheet – West Midlands, sets out the critical skills supply and demand issues facing the West Midlands engineering sector and what is required to address these issues. Currently, 19 per cent of engineering establishments in the West Midlands report skill gaps.
Key stats from the report include that 15 per cent of engineering establishments in the West Midlands had hard-to-fill vacancies between March 2006/07; that over the period 2008 – 2014, there is expected to be a net requirement within the engineering industry in the West Midlands for 6,100 employees and that 17 per cent of engineering employees in the West Midlands have no qualifications and many more are under-qualified for their roles.
To help employers overcome these issues, Semta has secured a £65m funding compact with the Government to deliver required skills training. Through Semta, science, engineering and manufacturing companies in England can get funding support for all-age apprenticeships, skills for life (such as literacy, numeracy and English as a foreign language), business improvement techniques (B-IT) and management and leadership training (for companies with between 5 - 250 employees). The organisation currently estimate that 93 per cent of the engineering firms in the West Midlands are small businesses, and could benefit from this support.
Funding is also available for Semta’s Productivity and Competitiveness (PAC) programmes. These take companies through a process linking training to organisational and operational changes to improve bottom line productivity. The training also provides employees with sustainable skills such as B-IT.
Pilot programmes found with government funding of £18,000, companies achieved an average increase of £94,000 in profit in a single year – a five fold payback. Rolled out to just 50 companies in each English region, this approach could reap a £42m sustainable improvement in profit and 2,400 B-IT trained employees. Moreover B-IT programmes managed by Semta’s new National Skills Academy for Manufacturing have already produced around £2.7m in savings across eight companies.
Philip Whiteman, Chief Executive of Semta, said: “Right now business is focussed on survival. Our funding, specialised support and programmes are designed to meet the needs of employers in the real economy: science, engineering and manufacturing. B-IT programmes have proven effective in cutting costs and improving quality and competitiveness while apprenticeship programmes and upskilling will make companies fitter for future growth.
“Semta research shows there are significant skills shortages in the West Midlands that need to be filled. So we urge West Midlands science, engineering and manufacturing employers to take advantage of the compact and our National Skills Academy programmes, as the benefits are clear, quantifiable and can have a huge impact on the bottom line of small to medium sized businesses in particular.”
Companies interested in finding out more should contact Semta Customer Services on 0845 643 9001 or email email@example.com or visit www.semta.org.uk.