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South Yorkshire Chambers Call for More Collaboration and Ambition Within the Local Skills System

Doncaster City

The South Yorkshire Chambers are calling for even more collaboration, ambition, and dynamism within the local skills system. 

Speaking at a South Yorkshire Skills Celebration event, Chamber CEOs highlighted excellent practice within the skills system and examples of effective partnership, whilst also saying that – if the region is to close a stark productivity gap and create employment opportunities in the future – skills providers and commissioners need to go further and faster when it comes to meeting the needs of local businesses.

The Chamber also urged businesses to engage constructively with important new research, so that they can articulate their digital skills needs and help to shape training provision across the region.

Specifically, firms are being encouraged to complete an online survey about the digital skills gap and to take part in one-to-one consultations that will explore the issue in greater depth. In turn, the insights gleaned from this activity will help the Chamber better understand the difficulties that employers are facing right now, when it comes to recruiting tech-savvy talent.

The research here will feed into the development of South Yorkshire’s Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), which aims to improve productivity in the region by ensuring that residents have the sought-after skills (especially digital ones) that they need to prosper in the workplace. It will do this by putting employers right at the heart of training provision and education curriculums.

Speaking about this at yesterday’s South Yorkshire Skills Celebration Event, Dan Fell, Chief Exec of Doncaster Chamber, said: “Recruitment is a perennial challenge for businesses of all different shapes and sizes. However, the situation seems to be especially challenging at the moment, with an extremely tight labour market and many firms struggling to fill their outstanding vacancies.

“Digital illiteracy in particular is developing into a real problem. Indeed, there is an ever-widening discrepancy between the skills that people are offering in this area and those that employers are actually looking for. “

Louisa Harrison-Walker, Chief Exec of Sheffield Chamber, added: “Emerging findings from the LSIP — based on interim evidence — show that digital skills are a near-universal requirement across most jobs in South Yorkshire, with it being considered essential to at least have a grasp of the basics for two thirds of vacancies.

“In spite of this evident demand, our region remains in the UK’s bottom quartile for digital skills. Worryingly, GCSE Computer Science is not offered in two-fifths of secondary schools and ICT education accounts for less than 2% of A-Level entries. These concerning trends must be reversed.

“The deficiency is even more alarming when you take into consideration that males are more than three times as likely as females to start a computing degree, and that poorer students —  many of whom lack access to a computer at home —  are also deterred from taking the subject, leaving both groups at a disadvantage.”

Carrie Sudbury, Chief Exec Designate, Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber, added: “It is against this backdrop that we must seek to close the digital skills gap in South Yorkshire. We don’t subscribe to the worldview that our skills system is fundamentally broken but it is evidently not working for many employers and residents. By consulting extensively with businesses, the LSIP will help to address this.  South Yorkshire has a devolved skills budget and so is primed and ready to proactively respond to what businesses tell us they need via this research.”

Explaining how businesses can get involved, Dan Fell continued: “Although we are part way through the information-gathering already — and have certainly learned a lot from those firms that have taken the time to engage with us — we need to ensure that our fieldwork is thorough and all-encompassing. That way, we can formulate a plan that truly works for the region.

“We have had a really encouraging commitment from our regional partner to listen to the results of this survey and to act on what businesses tell us.  To that end, we are calling on all employers, irrespective of their size or industry, to please make their voices heard. Fill in the Digital Skill Survey and, for those who want to be more involved, there is also an opportunity to participate in diagnostic interviews, where we can go into more granular detail about what you need from your workforce and where current training provision is letting you down.”

Louisa Harrison-Walker then concluded: “For South Yorkshire to thrive, we need a revised skills system that is ambitious, equitable and responsive. Not just for the benefit of our residents, but also for businesses the and wider economy at large. Please, help us make that happen.”



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