Businesses warned Budget spend alone won’t bridge technology skills gap

Published on: 10th March 2017

Specialist in manufacturing and engineering recruitment, Jonathan Lee Recruitment welcomes the Budget announcement of extra investment in developing technical and technology skills in the future, but warns it is not a silver bullet to bridge the widening skills gap.
David Hale, Managing Director, at Jonathan Lee Recruitment said: “It’s great that the Government is recognising the value of UK manufacturing and the need to upskill the workforce to exploit the exciting technology opportunities ahead. However, the investment being announced in 2017 will not address many of the immediate needs in engineering and technology businesses today.
“One in 6 of our hires into the sector come from the EU and much expertise is now ageing out of the workforce, so businesses should not rely on policy and educational investment alone to address the skills challenge and need to be very proactive in future-proofing the workforce.
“From harnessing transferable skills to facilitating knowledge transfer and embracing ‘returnships’ that could encourage talented female engineers back into the workforce after a career break, there is a range of options that businesses should be looking at without delay.”
In yesterday’s Spring Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £300m to support 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects as well as investment in technical education for 16 to 19 year olds rising to over £500 million with new T-levels for 16 to 19-year-old technical students being introduced from autumn 2019.
He also announced maintenance loans for students doing higher-level technical courses at National Colleges and Institutes of Technology – like those available to university students and £270 million to launch the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to support research and innovation in universities and businesses. The funding would cover areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics that will work in extreme environments, like offshore energy, nuclear energy and space, designing and manufacturing better batteries for new electric vehicles that will help improve our air quality as well as improving medicine manufacturing technologies to speed up patient access to drugs.
A new strategy to make the UK a world leader in 5G technology was also outlined in the Budget alongside £16 million for a national 5G Innovation Network to trial new 5G technology and £200 million will be made available for local projects to build fast and reliable full-fibre broadband networks.
To mark International Women’s Day yesterday, the government also announced plans to invest £5 million to increase the number of returnships, helping people back into employment after a career break.