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Skills Gap Dragging Down Engineering

A study into the training needs of engineering companies has found that 55 per cent of manufacturing companies in Coventry and Warwickshire are having difficulty in recruiting skilled staff.

Yet one in four had taken no action to deal with the problem. And there was a general lack of awareness of what training was available amongst small employers.

The study was carried out for The Chamber by the Institute for Employment Studies.

"We are setting out to improve the competitiveness of local engineering companies through high quality training," said Dr. Jane Holland, research manager at the Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise.

"But we found there was not enough known about the training currently available, nor was enough known about how engineering manufacturing businesses felt about whether the training met their needs."

In fact the study discovered that there was concern among employers that initial training of young people did not provide a sound enough grounding in basic engineering principles, especially since the introduction of NVQS.

And, although training providers had made considerable efforts, and investment, in meeting the changing needs of the engineering industry, many employers were concerned that it did not meet job-specific needs.

Despite continual talk of a major decline in manufacturing, the study found that in fact engineering had bounced back from the recession of the early 1990's.

The number of jobs in the West Midlands went down from 50,000 in 1991 to 39,000 by 1993, but was back up to almost 50,000 by 1995.

This is 16 per cent of the total number employed in the region.

"Nevertheless there is a picture of overall, but not always rapid decline," said Dr. Holland.

"Current forecasts are that engineering employment will fall from 9.3 to 7.1 of total employment in the West Midlands by the decade ending 2001-faster than the UK as a whole.

"The decline in industrial manufacturing plays some role, but increased competition, new technologies and improved productivity are major factors."

She added:

"Against this background one in three employers report a skills gap among their existing workforce, and more than half said the skills needed by their average employee were increasing.

"The challenge then is to match training with the needs of employers to capitalise on the opportunities which still exist for the industry."

Providing that training was becoming increasingly complex, the study found, with "very diverse" training and skills needs among engineering employers.

Changing needs also posed a challenge to training providers. The study found, for instance, that there had been a shift away from training employed instead of unemployed people.

There was also increased demand from employers for training existing, older employees.

The study also found that, overall, craft and operative jobs were most commonly reported as hard-to-fill, with engineering employers experiencing the most difficulty amongst the manufacturing sector.

MORE INFORMATION:  Barry Lloyd-Jones   01203 654260

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