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Skills gap: firms voice new fears

Their message to ministers comes on the heels of government’s announcement that apprenticeship schemes are to be expanded. Business leaders in the county are keen to see more business-led initiatives emanating from Whitehall to tackle the UK’s skills shortage.

They want to see schemes of a high standard and rigorously managed to ensure young people and businesses received maximum benefit.

Richard Lacy (pictured), chief executive of the county business representative the Chamber – which manages apprenticeship schemes within Bedfordshire and Luton – said: “It is vital that the government tackles the problems businesses tell us they face when trying to find young people with the right attitude and skills for work.

“Participation in apprenticeships needs to grow to meet the needs of business and help young people into work but expansion of the scheme must not result in a reduction in standards. The Chamber is highly respected for its management of apprenticeships. We’ll continue to provide the high quality, ongoing support we always have in managing apprenticeships, whatever the future format.”

The Chamber has welcomed the announcement that McDonalds, budget airline Flybe and Network Rail are among the first businesses to be approved to offer in-house Level 3 NVQ qualifications.
Mr Lacy said: “In the past there has been far too much emphasis on academic qualifications with vocational qualifications having Cinderella status.

“It’s marvellous to see companies of this calibre demonstrating their commitment to training and investing in staff development. This should send a very positive message to smaller businesses about the importance of investing in training.”

He added: “With global competition increasing, it’s never been more important to have staff with the right skills. Business needs to see the importance of investing in training but equally central.”

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