Why is the skills agenda a top priority for business?
Lucy Druesne – Skills Programme Manager – Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce
The skills agenda helps to ensure that businesses have the skilled workforce they need to compete in the global economy. A well-skilled workforce can help businesses:
- Increase productivity: Skilled workers are able to work more efficiently and effectively, and they are more likely to come up with new ideas and solutions.
- Improve innovation: Bring the knowledge and skills your business needs to develop new products and services, and new ways of doing things.
- Greater adaptability: Skilled workers can learn new skills and adapt to new technologies more easily.
Having the right workforce not only enables businesses to address their current needs but can also support them facing some of the bigger agendas such as net zero and technology changes.
This is nothing new and most businesses recognise this, however the current situation in the UK is one of a shortage of skilled workers, with near full-employment businesses and organisations in general are facing some increasing challenges when trying to recruit and maintain a skilled workforce.
Added to this, the impact of the aging workforce and the fact that younger generations are smaller in size, this need is not going to go away. In some sectors the need is very acute, for Social Care, 27% of the current workforce is over 55, and that is just one example.
These workforce changes put a focus on the reskilling and upskilling of the existing workforce, so we need to ensure that the skills conversation is wider than new entrants in a sector and business.
Whilst not all organisations are facing these recruitment and skills problems yet, there is a high chance they will in the coming years. It is essential that businesses are aware of the issues but also that solutions are developed to ensure that businesses have the workers they need.
These challenges are ones where we, as businesses, are going to have to get involved, education providers and education stakeholders cannot address this without input from businesses and it is essential that we work together for the benefit of our region.
So, what are we, your Chamber, doing about it?
Kent Invicta Chamber is the employer representative body (ERB) for the Kent & Medway Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP). Over the last 18 months through various workshops, events, and surveys, we have listened to the views of employers on skills needs and combined it with local, regional and national evidence.
We have used this to form a view of the key priorities in Kent & Medway and summarise the skills, capabilities or expertise that are, or may in the future be, required. All of this will be included in the Kent & Medway Local Skills Improvement Plan 2023, which builds on the 2022 document and should be published soon.
This plan sets out the priorities and actions we will be taking in the key sectors, cross cutting themes, as well as our watching briefs, giving us a roadmap to progress the skills provision and workforce needs for the future economic development of the region. These steps will be important to ensure Kent & Medway maintains a vibrant economy supported by an appropriately skilled workforce ready for the future.
The process of the LSIP and the approach the Chamber has taken builds on the value of raising the awareness around the skills agenda and the focus on how employers can better engage in the skills conversation for the benefit of the upcoming and existing workforce, the economy, and the region as a whole.
So, watch this space as the Chamber continues to embed the skills conversation within employer forums and to do more to ensure employers are at the heart of the skills conversation with providers; ensuring there is a meaningful impact for businesses in Kent & Medway.