CBI says firms fear lack of technology skills

Employers are concerned with the availability of technology and science skills among school and college leavers, according to the CBI/EDI annual Education & Skills survey 2011.

The CBI /EDI survey of 566 employers shows 42 percent are not satisfied with the basic use of English by school and college leavers, while more than a third (35 percent) are concerned with the basic numeracy skills in this age group.

Shortages in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills are also widespread, with 43 percent of employers currently having difficulty recruiting staff in these areas, rising to 53 percent who expect to have difficulty in the next year.

According to 62 percent of businesses, the government must tackle these shortages by promoting science and maths in schools, and supporting STEM-related apprenticeship programmes (54 percent).

Companies also understand that they too have a key role to play, with 31 percent of employers currently offering STEM related work experience.

Employers are also willing to pay a premium for staff with STEM skills, with 40 percent of companies in science and IT and 33 percent in construction reporting that STEM graduates earn more than other graduates over the course of their careers.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “With UK businesses looking to win a larger share of global markets as we rebalance the economy, the skills bar is constantly being raised by international competition. Higher-skilled employees, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths will be some of the most in demand."

He said: “The government must improve the take-up of science and maths in schools and support the development of STEM apprenticeship programmes so that employers are able to recruit the right people to drive growth.”

Despite a dip in skills investment during the last couple of years that accompanied the recession, the survey suggests that the outlook is becoming increasingly positive. This year 41 percent of employers indicated they plan to increase their investment in training, as compared with just 14 percent in last year’s survey.

Similarly, the employer appetite for apprenticeships also seems to be on the rise, with 55 percent already involved in delivering apprenticeships and 17 percent looking to get involved in the next few years.

Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK, said: “We’re very pleased to see signs that businesses are ready to invest more in skills development and training. The growing interest in and uptake of apprenticeships is especially encouraging, particularly the focus on the need to prioritise higher level apprenticeships in STEM areas to support long-term economic recovery and growth."

E-skills UK research estimates that exploiting the full potential of technology could boost the UK economy by an additional £50 billion over the next five to seven years. "It’s vital that we prioritise investment in the skills of the IT professionals who can realise this," said Price.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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