Harrogate College boss joins complaints over 'huge' skills gap and shortage of investment

The concerned boss of Harrogate College has joined voices across the country making an urgent plea to the Government for new investment to counter a growing 'skills gap'.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 11:52 am
Principal of Harrogate College, Danny Wild - “This research clearly highlights the huge skills gaps being experienced by so many businesses at such a critical time."

Principal Danny Wild's appeal comes as The Association of Colleges (AoC) has published its latest bi-annual research showing the majority (68%) of SMEs - small and medium-sized enterprises - say that if their business is going to survive and thrive, then skills must be a top priority for the government, and Harrogate College is calling for urgent action.

Despite recent high-profile skills speeches and announcements from government, almost 40% of SME decision-makers say that it is more difficult now than it was five years ago to find employees with the right skills, and 53% still do not think that enough is being done to help them skill and reskill their workforce as we get closer to the end of the Brexit transition period.

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The national survey of SME leaders - conducted by Opinum - also shows that the impact of Brexit is no longer the biggest worry for businesses, with more than half (53%) saying that COVID-19 is now their key concern.

Danny Wild, principal at Harrogate College, said: “This research clearly highlights the huge skills gaps being experienced by so many businesses at such a critical time.

“We provide a choice of high-quality education and support whilst working with and for the local community.

"We educate students from all walks of life and take pride in helping them reach their potential in a safe and caring environment.

"Through the delivery of high-quality training and re-training, which creates employees who have the skills that businesses need, colleges like ours are going to be central in aiding economic recovery.

“However, to do this, we need urgent investment. This will allow us to continue meeting the needs of the North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, ensuring that businesses and SMEs in the region benefit from a skilled workforce that is essential to both their survival and future success.

“Colleges like ours already do so much to support business and we stand ready to do so much more.”

The new survey shows more than two in five SMEs (44%) say that the skills gap in their sector is likely to increase because of threats such as COVID-19, and 54% believe that they are going to need to train their workforce to adapt to the opportunities and threats thrown up by the virus.

The study, released to mark Colleges Week (October 19-23), which Harrogate College is supporting, also shows that seven in 10 (71%) believe colleges are important to business for training and retraining staff.

Harrogate College currently works with 85 SMEs, delivering a range of apprenticeships and work experience placements tailored to local businesses’ needs.

The national research also revealed that 39% of businesses say they would look to train, retrain or upskill their employees through colleges, compared to 21% who would turn to a university or 13% online courses. A further 44% believe colleges are best placed to skill their future workforce, compared to universities (22%) and schools (21%).

One of the SMEs Harrogate College works with is Funclubs, a business that provides before and after school and holiday care for primary school children in the area. It currently employs five apprentices from Harrogate College who are all on the Level 3 Early Years Educator apprenticeship. ​

Funclubs company director, Jenny Rowland, said: “Apprenticeships and the training opportunities they provide play a hugely important role in the ongoing success of our business, and Harrogate College works closely with us to ensure the apprenticeship programmes meet our exact business needs.​

“Colleges provide tailored training and education that equips people with the skills that local businesses like ours need, so they are key to our ongoing success. In the current economic climate, being able to access the right skills is more important than ever, so ongoing government investment in training and education is critical.”

To find out more about Harrogate College, visit www.harrogate-college.ac.uk. If you’d like to know more about Colleges Week (which runs from October 19-23), visit www.loveourcolleges.co.uk.

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