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“Partnership working is key” to supporting businesses invest in skills and training

Supporting businesses to invest in skills and training remains a key priority for local partners in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire following the LEP’s latest Skills for Growth survey.

780 business took part in the survey between February to July 2022 to provide an up-to-date evidence base on the key skills needs in the area and ensure the voice of business informs future policy and initiatives including the local Employment and Skills Plans, Skills Hub and Careers Hub.

The Skills for Growth survey found that:

·         Growth and profitability remain the priority for 80% of respondents, followed by providing better customer service (48%), upskilling teams (40%), and investing in innovation (32%).

·         Whilst 45% of respondents have recruited in the last 12 months, and health and social care and logistics had the highest percentage of businesses recruiting, 57% of businesses who have recruited say that they have found it difficult to do so.

·         49% of respondents said they plan to stay at their current size with 34% planning for moderate growth, and 9% planning for significant growth.

·         Identifying and bridging skills gaps remains important, with digital skills and sustainability a key priority due to future skills demand.

·         50% of respondents see on-the-job training as the most common route for achieving future skills needs for the business, with recruitment (31% of firms) and external training (28%) also cited as key routes to skills acquisition.

·         Only 42% of respondents had a skills and training plan in place but there is demand for support, particularly around offering apprenticeships and gaining bespoke specialist training from local providers.

·         Early retirement resulting from the pandemic is having a tightening effect on the labour market.

Alun Rogers, Chair of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP said: “Our latest survey has provided invaluable insight into the skills challenges and opportunities that our businesses face. With global and national headwinds, it is unsurprising that for the majority of businesses, the current focus is on profitability and growth. This is reflected in the survey results with a substantial proportion of businesses that are not actively considering skills issues, either through a training plan, looking ahead to future skills or recruitment. But we know that skills and growth go hand-in-hand and this survey has highlighted the areas where more can be done to support our businesses invest in skills, nurture talent and prosper and we’ll be working with our local partners to ensure this voice of business informs and shapes future support in this area.”

The survey results will be used by members of the LEP’s Skills Advisory Panel – universities, colleges and skills providers, business representatives, and local authorities – to deepen local understanding of skills demand, support skills and supply matching, and inform continued COVID recovery activity and future economy policy.

Professor Martin Jones, SSLEP Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) Chair and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Staffordshire University, said:

“We know the positive impact that investment in skills and training can have on business growth. That is why this latest Skills for Growth survey has been so important to help identify areas of substantial opportunity to support our businesses. This will inform the work of the Skills Advisory Panel and the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Local Skills Improvement Plan to focus on the skills areas which will make the greatest difference to the regional economy.

“Partnership working is key for us to find the right solutions that will help businesses benefit from investment in skills and training and we are looking forward to continuing our work across the public, private and third sectors to make a difference for our local businesses.”

Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White, said: “It is a priority to the county council and our partners to ensure businesses have the support to create better skilled, better paid employment opportunities for people on our area.

“A skilled workforce undoubtedly enables businesses to build ambitious growth plans. We recently launched the Staffordshire Jobs and Careers Service, which matches employers with candidates with appropriate abilities and also signposts people and businesses to organisations which can help develop workplace skills. A key pillar of our long-term economic growth strategy is improving the skills of Staffordshire’s workforce, and we look forward to continued close working with the LEP, colleges, universities and other providers to deliver on that commitment.”

Sara Williams, SSLEP Board Member and CEO at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “This research will act as a catalyst for the work that Staffordshire Chambers is undertaking for the delivery of our Local Skills Improvement Plan.

“We have an exciting opportunity to build upon our work with the skills agenda and bring together employers, training providers and other key stakeholders across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire to continue to respond to our skills priorities.

“We want to put local employers at the heart of the learning and skills system to build a stronger, more dynamic partnership between employers and education providers.

“As the voice of local business, we regularly speak to our members who express significant concerns about the skills shortages that are impacting Staffordshire businesses. As per the survey, some 57% of businesses who have recruited during the last 12 months indicated that they have found it difficult doing so. This highlights the desperate need for an LSIP in our county and is something that we must address both urgently and effectively.”

The full results of the survey can be found on the LEP’s website

Businesses wanting to find out more about the skills support available in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire can contact the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub for advice on how to develop their staff and take their business to the next level.

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Notes to editors

Notes to editors About Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LEP The LEP supports businesses in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire by working in partnership with organisations across the public and private sectors to drive growth and economic success. Through our Growth Hub, we provide support to help businesses grow and innovate, creating jobs and economic opportunities. Through our partnerships with education institutions and skills providers, we are ensuring businesses can find the talent they need to prosper while also developing the workforce of the future. And, through our investment in transport, training facilities, enterprise zones and other infrastructure, we are enabling communities across our region to thrive and making Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire an attractive place for people to live, work and do business. We also represent Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s interests nationally, providing a voice for local businesses to ensure that central government policy meets the specific needs of our region and securing major investment for our area.

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