Firms in Luton and Dunstable urged to 'give an hour to inspire young talent'

Inspiring the talent of tomorrow
Inspiring the talent of tomorrow

Companies asked by SEMLEP to throw open their doors to school leavers as National Apprenticeship Week looms

Small businesses are being urged to “give up an hour” of their time to help inspire the talented young workers of tomorrow.

A shortage of skilled labour is one of the chief concerns of business owners, according to research by SEMLEP, the South East Midlands area’s local enterprise partnership.

In the run up to National Apprenticeship Week - which starts on Monday (February 3) - it has called for small businesses to throw open their doors to young people in a bid to tackle many of the constraints on business growth.

SEMLEP wants companies to talk to school students or provide practical sessions to inspire the next generation to take local jobs.

“Business leaders are the best people to inspire young people,” says SEMLEP’s skills adviser Dr Julie Mills OBE, group principal of Milton Keynes College.

“We have some fantastic employers working with us, with schools and colleges, and directly with young people to better inform students and their parents about what skills they need and what career choices are available to them. But we need more people to come forward.

“Although we are seeing improvements in the skills situation, some sectors don’t have the pipeline of talent coming through. Businesses can’t just wait for change to happen. They need to be involved to drive the skills agenda for themselves.”

Paul Thompson, skills manager at SEMLEP, said: “The work we are doing to improve the quality of careers advice and information is paying off.

“Ninety-four per cent of all schools and colleges in the South East Midlands area are working with us, taking direct action to build careers and employer engagement into the school curriculum and making student experiences much more relevant to the local labour market.”

While SEMLEP’s survey revealed that most businesses believed their workforce to be already well-skilled, 25 per cent reported a skills gap.

However, only just over a quarter (28 per cent) had taken action to increase the skills of their workforce. This is down from 32 per cent in 2017.

Thirty six per cent of businesses who do not currently have an apprentice said they would consider employing one - 70 per cent of businesses in the area rate local schools and colleges as high quality.

For more information on how to get involved, visit: www.semlep.com/skills This website provides information on apprenticeships, funding available for businesses to train their employees, as well as labour market information useful to job seekers, schools and parents.

Businesses can also speak to advisers at SEMLEP’s Growth Hub for free, one-to-one support to help them attract and retain skilled people.