New report highlights worrying levels of skills shortages across GM region
Employers throughout Greater Manchester have highlighted worrying skills shortages, including vital ‘soft skills’ among the region’s current and future workforce.
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has unveiled the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) for Greater Manchester, which has brought together employers’ views, local authority investment plans and granular data analysis on vacancies and skills requirements, to highlight the current and future skills shortages affecting the region.
The Greater Manchester LSIP, which is funded by the Department of Education, outlines where the skills shortages are in each sector and local authority area of Greater Manchester and sets out the steps to bridge the skills gaps through ongoing work with local skills providers.
More than 3,000 businesses contributed to the research, which began in October 2022, and the report details specific areas in each sector where action needs to be taken to fulfil current and future demand:
- Within the construction sector, retrofitting skills have been classified as an urgent priority, with employers citing problems finding individuals who can implement ‘net zero’ solutions
- Within manufacturing, the skills gaps that need to be addressed urgently include energy efficiency and waste management skills, lean manufacturing, and roles focusing on sustainability. There are ‘high priority’ skills gaps in industries focusing on robotics and automation technologies, with industrial electrical trades and electricians also in high demand
- In the health and social care sectors, there is an ‘urgent’ need for nurses, particularly mental health practitioners, and there is a chronic labour shortage in health care with employers citing difficulties in attracting and retaining staff as the main reason for this
- The education sector is also suffering from labour shortages, with teachers of STEM subjects and digital skills the most sought after. There is also a shortage of teaching assistants and learning support staff
- Finally, logistics and warehousing skills are in high demand, in particular, operational skills around the use of automated lines and drones. Employers also highlighted the need for more ‘future’ skillsets in logistics, such as general software skills and coders for equipment and picking lines
Chris Fletcher, policy director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and contract director for the GM LSIP, said: “For many, the priorities that have emerged from our research will not come as a surprise – some of these skills gaps have been known about for a long time. However, our remit from the Department for Education is to use the quantitative and qualitative evidence of skills and labour shortages that we have collected from employers and start to bridge these gaps.
“We have worked closely with colleges and other training providers and outlined the skills priorities in each sector and area of Greater Manchester. Together, as we enter the next phase of this project, we will look at current skills provision and identify where it needs to change, increase, or bring in new courses and training that meets the needs of employers.”
He added: “The next part of the LSIP will also see a focus on ensuring that employers fully understand what training is currently available to them and encourage more take up of provision and reverse the decline of investment in training.
“Working closely with skills providers, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), delivery partners, a range of other stakeholders, and, of course, businesses, we will bring greater transparency to the skills system so that individuals and employers can access the skills and training provision they need to grow and succeed.”
In addition to the main skills and labour shortages identified, employers highlighted a lack of ‘soft’ skills in new recruits.
Soft skills have been categorised as ‘those skills that an employee needs outside of the specific technical skills to do the job’. These skills include attitude and aptitude, presentation skills, setting objectives and time management.
Coupled with this, many employers said they struggled to find individuals with basic digital skills, such as email, using Microsoft programmes, etc, and in some cases, a lack of basic numeracy and literacy skills.
Subrahmaniam Krishnan Harihara, deputy director of research at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Soft skills are a major issue for employers, and this is also recognised by providers.
“Whilst some technical skills shortages may be easier to address, it would be wrong to ignore the issue of soft skills if current and future skills and recruitment issues are to be tackled successfully.
“Basic, soft skills specific to the workplace, basic IT and digital skills and essential literacy and numeracy skills have been highlighted as strategic priorities within the LSIP, which means we will aim to address these with skills providers, alongside the skills shortages specific to sectors.
“Within our strategic priorities, we have also included net zero/sustainability skills as many employers now require individuals with basic knowledge of these skills specific to their industry. If Greater Manchester is to meet its net zero targets, these skills need to be embedded within the workforce and that starts with education and upskilling.”
The training and upskilling of current staff was another issue that emerged from the research for the LSIP.
Employers tend to associate skills shortages with the recruitment process, as opposed to looking at the skills levels of their current employees, therefore, one of the recommendations within the LSIP is to encourage workforce development and release staff for relevant training to help meet the current and future skills needs of the business.