Chancellor Philip Hammond’s pledge at the weekend of an additional £500m to boost vocational and technical skills has been welcomed by East Midlands Chamber.
Hammond described the “shake-up” to education that will come from the additional funding as “the biggest since the introduction of A-levels 70 years ago”.
Chris Hobson, the Chamber’s Director of Policy, said: “For many years we have been striving for closer integration between employers and education.
“The lack of skills demonstrated by young people looking for their first job is a recurrent issue in our quarterly economic surveys, but so is the paucity of available workers with enhanced and specialist skills, particularly in the engineering sector.
“For too long, apprenticeships were seen as the poor relation to a degree-level education, but this is far from being true as on-the-job training is the only real way to acquire the hands-on skills and experience employers need.
“With the potential scenario of not being able to recruit from a pan-European pool of trained workers once Britain has left the EU, now more than ever it is essential that young people leaving education in the UK have the skills to fill the void.
“The £500m pledged by the Chancellor for courses starting in the 2019/20 academic year will go some way towards helping to close the skills gap but that means it could be 2022 – five years from now and three years after we, potentially, lose the available pool of skilled workers – before employers begin to feel any appreciable benefit.
“We would urge Chancellor Hammond and Education Secretary Justine Greening to work together now to find funding and devise programmes to begin closing the skills gap much earlier than five years from now”.