UK businesses are concerned about finding enough people with the right skills, according to the 2017 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey published earlier this month.

Three quarters (75%) of businesses expect to increase the number of high-skilled roles over the coming years, but 61% fear that there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill them. Of the 344 companies surveyed, 62% see strong competition for candidates with appropriate qualifications as the most widespread cause of skills shortage, followed by a lack of candidates with appropriate qualifications (55%).

The latest edition of the annual survey reports on many areas of UK education and skills landscape, including apprenticeships, business-school partnerships and employee development. Asked about the impact of the apprenticeship levy system in the months before it went live, many firms indicated they will use the levy to upskill their current workforce and replace other existing training, with 63% planning to reconfigure existing training into apprenticeships and 27% expecting to cut back on non-apprenticeship training activity to maximise use of their levy pot. Over half (58%) of survey respondents plan to create new apprenticeship programmes and close to half (46%) expect to increase apprenticeship places. However, many businesses are struggling to fill apprenticeship vacancies: almost half (49%) of respondents have experienced difficulty in recruiting apprentices or expect to do so in the next three years.

When asked about careers advice and guidance, 21% of respondents indicated that they were aware of The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC), the recently created body tasked with improving business-school links. Four out of five (81%) businesses have at least some links with schools and/or colleges, with connections most widespread between businesses and secondary schools (66%) and FE colleges (63%). Encouragingly, 75% of those surveyed indicated a willingness to play a greater role by delivering careers advice directly in schools and colleges.

The survey highlights the value firms place on effective school and college partnerships due to the role they can play in supporting young people and their schools, with subject knowledge, careers inspiration or practical business expertise.

In Wiltshire, the Swindon & Wiltshire Enterprise Adviser Network (SWEAN) is helping to create strong and lasting connections between local businesses and the schools and colleges in the county.

The network, part of a national Careers and Enterprise Company initiative, is made up of volunteer Enterprise Advisers drawn from businesses across Wiltshire who are working with Senior Leadership Teams in schools and colleges to help create or enhance employer engagement strategies for careers and enterprise and to help raise the aspirations of young people.

The Swindon & Wiltshire Enterprise Adviser Network is coordinated locally by Wiltshire Council and the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. Click here to find out more about the network and how you can become involved.

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