The skills shortage across a variety of industries is only expected to widen as the UK begins its departure from the European Union.
The UK is near bottom of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development rankings on training.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director general, said employers and government had to work together: “There has never been a more important time to address the UK’s skills shortages. Investment in skills by employers and the government, working together in partnership, is the key to giving young people the opportunities they need to succeed.”
In hopes of addressing this impending crisis, the Chancellor the Exchequer – Philip Hammond – aims to overhaul the education sector by incentivising students to pursue a career in technology.
>See also: The case for blowing this year’s IT budget
Students who decide to engage in ‘technical education’ will be offered maintenance loans for the first time, under a new £500 million-a-year plan to steady the UK and equip future British workers for the realities of a post-Brexit Britain.
Hammond will claim that this is “the most ambitious post-16 education reform since the introduction of A-levels 70 years ago”.
On top of the maintenance grants, Hammond will announce that the amount of training on those courses teaching technical skills will be increased by 50%, by 2019-2020. An increase to more than 900 hours a year.
As part of this surge in experienced training, students will be required to complete high-quality industry work placements, which are designed in keeping with what hiring businesses are looking for. To this end, Hammond will scrap the current route to work system and replace it with 15 “world-class” routes, tailored to business needs.
Paul Cant, Vice President EMEA, BMC Software believes this proposal is a much needed statement of intent. “By providing the next generation with a tailored career path in critical industries like engineering, IT and manufacturing, businesses will have access to a much deeper pool of technical talent which is critical for long term economic growth.”
Siobhan Hafferty, head of public sector at CenturyLink, agrees and suggested that “these proposals are essential for tackling the UK’s skills crisis and will give a new generation access to technical, tailored courses in critical industries”.
“With the government’s digital strategy transforming public services, it’s vital that we build a digitally proficient workforce with the correct skills to manage these services, securely.”
>See also: Mind the skills gap
Lord Sainsbury, who chaired an inquiry last year into the reform of technical education, said: “News that the government is to commit significant investment to the development of technical education should be welcomed by everyone who cares about increasing national prosperity and improving social mobility.”
“Targeted investment of this type makes economic sense – our international competitors recognised long ago that investing in technical education is essential to enhancing national productivity. But it is also essential if we are to equip people with the knowledge and skills they need to obtain rewarding and skilled employment in the future.”
“The expert panel I chaired last year called for all young people following technical education programmes to have an entitlement to a high-quality work placement. We also called for increased levels of core funding to allow colleges to invest in their staff and facilities so that technical education in England could match the best in the world.”
As reliance on digital grows, so does the digital threat. It is essential, therefore, to have a workforce that is aware of the dangers and how to handle them.
“Understanding the importance of securely managing data is now the responsibility of every employee at all levels of the organisation,” said Peter Carlisle, VP EMEA at Thales e-Security. “The sooner we start equipping the next generation with specialist skills the better. That’s why it’s vital that the security industry plays its part in supporting organisations like the National Cyber Security Centre to spread best practice and enable companies to fight off malicious hackers who may wish to put national security at risk.”
William Newton, EMEA director at WiredScore provided Information Age via email with his thoughts on the importance of connectivity. Hammond, he argues, must make this a priority at his first Budget this Wednesday.
“We’ve recently seen commitment from the Government toward the implementation of full-fibre networks and 5G infrastructure although, to date, this has largely been focused around residential connectivity needs.”
“However, many businesses in the UK still need faster, more reliable, more affordable internet to be able to grow. The Cloud isn’t any use if you can’t access it. Indeed, nearly a third of British SMEs are still without access to super-fast broadband and 130,000 businesses across the country receive speeds below 10Mbps.”
“A greater reliance on technology has made connectivity the lifeblood of the modern business, so we need to ensure that businesses have access to the excellent, underlying digital infrastructure they need to help them thrive in the digital economy.”
“While it’s certainly encouraging that the government is committed to implementing this infrastructure, we believe it could take a more radical approach. Business connectivity could be improved on a more local level, by working closely with the new mayoral authorities and providing stakeholders in both the private and public sectors with resources such as the City of London’s Standard Wayleave Programme and Gigabit public WiFi.”
“For the UK to remain a central hub of innovation, it’s important that the government ensures its businesses have access to the best infrastructure possible to enable innovation and growth.”