BUSINESS leader James Ramsbotham has warned the regions process industry could be at threat if the dangerous shortage of engineers is not tackled head-on.
Speaking at this weeks annual North East of England Process Industry Cluster skills conference, in Durham, Ramsbotham hammered home the importance of a healthy skills ethos among the regions companies.
The North East Chamber of Commerce chairman said the skills shortage could cause irreparable damage to the North East supply chain.
With research suggesting that over 8,500 skilled people across the North East will be retiring from the engineering sector before 2016, considerable danger is being posed to the industry, with many companies reaching full capacity in their ability to recruit and deliver. Ramsbotham says companies should be taking a more active role in the development of their future work forces in order to tackle these figures.
The North East boasts some of the best parts of the UK economy and were fortunate to have such dedicated and successful businesses blazing a trail in the process, manufacturing and engineering sectors.
However, it is not just the responsibility of our large firms and excellent schools, colleges and universities to ensure our future workforce is equipped with the requisite skills.
This issue is something that we must address throughout the business community and while we have a plethora of large companies dedicated to apprenticeships and employee development, not enough is being done by the SMEs in regional supply chains to address the potentially serious skills shortage.
Around 80% of our engineering firms do not have apprentices or are not engaged in the skills development agenda. It is vital that these companies explore the potential of recruiting apprentices, motivated learners who can be moulded to meet the needs of the individual business.
I would urge all firms to consider apprenticeships. It is not only good for your business, it is also good for regional business.
Highlighting the levels of youth unemployment, Ramsbotham questioned whether companies are doing enough to develop graduates and apprentices, as well as up-skilling their existing workforce.
He said: If more companies at various levels in the supply chain signed- up for apprenticeships it would go some way to addressing this potentially damaging issue and produce a workforce fit for future needs.
He urged businesses to engage with the world of academia to ensure graduates are equipped with the necessary skills.
Such a joined-up approach, he said, would help plug skills gaps and further enhance the already excellent offer of our higher and further education establishments.
Stan Higgins, NEPIC chief executive, said: We need all North East businesses to respond to this agenda and do their bit in both taking on apprentices and providing work placements for graduates. If they do this, they will solve the skill shortage.
By participating in the various skills schemes, companies can interface with some of the best young talent in the region, they then have the opportunity to recruit his talent.
If every technical business in this region took just one apprentice every couple of years, we would not have this problem looming ahead of us.