David Frost (pictured) told a meeting of Bedfordshire businesses: “Companies need graduates in engineering, science and multimedia. I think we are pitching the education level far too low. We need more graduates in more relevant subjects and to move up the educational ladder.”
The result, Mr Frost added, was an influx of 600,000 migrants, mainly from Poland. With both Romania and Bulgaria due to join the European Union in January, the government needed to carry out an urgent evaluation of the situation and its impact.
Mr Frost said: “Polish migrants have a much better work ethic and have far better skills. This has profound implications. Business is saying that young people do not have the right attitude to work, so they want to use Poles.”
He criticised UK education providers. “There seems to be a relentless focus on Level 2 qualifications but the future of the UK does not lie with more people having Level 2 qualifications.”
Mr Frostâ€™s concerns over skills levels are shared by Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber of Commerce. It supports the call for improvements to further and higher education, and for a university in Milton Keynes. Chief executive Sean Hickey said companies would increase their workforce if they could find people with the right skill sets.
He added: “If Milton Keynes is to achieve its economic vision, we are going to require many more people to be trained to much higher levels. I have been to a number of businesses that have Polish employees, for example, so I suspect that the total number of migrant workers in Milton Keynes now runs to several thousand.”
The Chamber believes that Milton Keynes is suffering from a shortage of people as well as skills. “It is proving a barrier to growth,” Mr Hickey said.
EMPLOYERS looking to recruit migrant workers from European Union countries have received a boost from the Milton Keynes Racial Equality Council.
It has set up a training arm covering topics including race relations law, cultural and faith awareness and diversity.
Milton Keynes Council was one of the first organisations to take up the training, receiving six delivered courses on cultural and faith awareness.
MKREC director Navrita Atwal urged businesses to welcome the migrant workers. She said: “The MKREC has recognised that promoting race equality and valuing diversity are part of every aspect of running a successful business.
“We must embrace the new workforce. We are not concerned about a skills deficit because there is so much positive immigration from Eastern Europe.
“The Training Arm is committed to providing high-quality training services to organisations and individuals needing to raise awareness of or comply with the law in relation to racial equality and diversity.”