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Companies urged to have their say

Shropshire businesses are being urged to help shape the future of skills training across the region by taking part in the second stage of a major research project.

The Local Skills Improvement Plan is being led by Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, and is designed to gain a better understanding of skills and training requirements across the Marches – Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire.

Around 450 businesses contributed to the first stage of the project, and a report on the findings has just been published. Organisers are now appealing for more employers to step forward for the next stage, to help ensure that their views are fully represented.

The LSIP project is targeting specific sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, food production, professional services, construction, environmental technologies, and health & social care.

The aim is to help post-16 education providers and other public sector bodies to ensure that the voice of employers is at the forefront when planning skills training.

Matt Lowe, director of business at Shropshire Chamber, updated businesses on the LSIP project’s progress when he spoke at a Skills Support Showcase in Telford.

“The emphasis is to build an understanding of what we need from employers for the next 10 to 15 years, and for providers to be working in partnership to help achieve it,” he said.

“From the first phase of the research, businesses have raised important issues around gaps in work-ready skills. They told us that soft skills, including basic professional use of email, Word and Excel, are below par - even with graduates.

“Dropout rates and no-shows among staff, particularly in semi or low-skilled roles, also remain high, suggesting there is an issue around people understanding the expectations of what ‘being employed’ involves.

“The second stage of the LSIP research will be more a deep dive into some of these important issues, and we want to engage with as many businesses as possible to add greater depth to our research.”

Matt told delegates at the Skills Support Showcase, held at AFC Telford United’s New Bucks Head stadium, that there was a clear need to ‘help bridge the language and culture gap between private enterprise, and public bodies’.

He added: “Some of the key tasks of stage two are to help employers to help themselves through stronger interactions with training providers. We want to ensure those providers have staff with current knowledge who understand the various business ways of working, and can work together to find innovative delivery solutions.

“We want to signpost and spread the word to ensure that all employers understand just what is available, accessible, and where to find it. But without the support of employers, large and small, we cannot make this happen. We need your stories, and your feedback.

“So, we ask employers to be willing to share their thoughts, confidentially, or work directly with providers or other stakeholders to ensure we are all moving in the same direction.”

The Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper has put employers firmly at the core of the skills agenda for post-16 education - a stance welcomed by the business world.

Marches LSIP project officer Rosie Beswick said: “This project will help to support those giving careers advice and help signpost employers to the vast array of local providers who can support their staff development.

“The end goal is to ensure that employers can find the skills they need, that training is understood and focused, and that the Marches businesses can prosper and grow for the benefit of all.”

For more details, or to contribute to the second stage of the LSIP research, email lsip@shropshire-chamber.co.uk or call the Shropshire Chamber team on 01952 208200.

The full stage one LSIP report can be found at www.shropshire-chamber.co.uk/policy-representation/local-skills-improvement-plan/marches-lsip-stage-1-report

Pictured: Matt Lowe speaking at the Skills Support Showcase in Telford