Business delivers a strong message on apprenticeships and immigration to No.10
5 July 2018
London First took a group of business leaders into No.10 to meet with Jimmy McLoughlin, the Prime Minister’s head of business engagement. On the agenda: Brexit (of course!), and the role of business in delivering the skilled workers the economy will need in future.
Our members delivered a strong message to government.
First, that business is committed to developing UK workers by investing in skills and training, but the cumbersome and inflexible apprenticeship system was getting in the way of training more people.
Second, growing new talent takes a long time. Business needs government to bridge the gap and make sure it can still employ overseas workers after Brexit. Britain cannot pull-up the drawbridge on immigration.
Members reported that businesses across London are finding it more difficult to attract and retain talented workers. From bricklayers to pharmacists, almost of all parts of the economy are facing skills shortages:
The construction industry said:
50% more construction workers are needed to deliver the government’s housing target of 300,000 new homes, but labour shortages are so acute that sites are poaching workers from each other which is slowing down delivery of new housing.
Mayor development schemes in London are being delayed by 6 to 9 months due to supply chain problems and lack of labour.
In the healthcare and retail sector:
There is a serious shortage of pharmacists and optometrists in the UK, because the sector is so reliant on EU workers. The worst hit are rural areas who struggle to attract new graduates, even though the local pharmacist is a critical community resource.
In the engineering sector:
There are hundreds of unfilled vacancies, and the availability of already scarce graduates in engineering is expected to get worse in the next 5 years. Around 30% of new engineering graduates are EU nationals, but university applications by students from the EU looking to study engineering have dropped by 5% to 8%.
Labour shortages and unfilled vacancies present a short-term growth challenge for business, but members also saw this a longer-term opportunity to better match the skills of the local workforce to the needs of the British economy.
Our members unanimously agreed that training more UK workers was a priority, but the apprenticeship system isn’t working efficiently and needed urgent reform.
Getting schemes registered with the Institute of Apprenticeship is talking far too long, and there is less funding for the current schemes.
The unspent funds generated by the apprentice levy are a source of concern, and make the system look more like a tax than a skills funding pot.
In London alone is there £300m unspent funds. Parents and young people would be very disappointed to know the money is not being invested in the skills needed to create the next generation of Britain’s business leaders.
Jimmy listened carefully to the needs of business and promised to take these back to the Prime Minister.
London First will continue to work with No.10 and across government department to make the case for urgent reform to the apprenticeship system and ensure the UKeconomy remains open to overseas workers.