Doncaster Voices: How can we address the workforce skills gap?

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Welcome to Doncaster Voices, your weekly debate forum. If you want to get involved, submit 150 words with name, title and photo to chris.page@jpress.co.uk and your views could appear here next week, when subject is . . . “Anti social behaviour – what can be done”?

Clair Mowbray, Chief Executive, National College for High Speed Rail

Clair Mowbray

Clair Mowbray

From September Doncaster learners will have a unique opportunity to forge an exciting career creating Britain’s 21st century rail network. The UK needs to create extra 69,000 engineers a year, replacing one in five aged over 55. As a town steeped in locomotive heritage and home to more than 20 major rail companies, Doncaster is uniquely placed to tackle this challenge. When National College for High Speed Rail opens its doors, learners can study for the UK’s first certificate of Higher Education in High Speed Rail and Infrastructure, a unique qualification created in partnership with employers to ensure students learn skills businesses need. A limited number of places are available for these courses and, with bursaries available for certain learners, we’re encouraging local residents to get on board.

Nuala Fennelly, DMBC Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Schools

To help address the skills gap we need to ensure all our young people have the best start in life. From an early age they need to have access to help, support and good quality education so they fulfil their potential. Ensuring our young people are well-educated will see them make informed choices about their future and desired career path. Going to university is not always the best option for young people so we are working hard to ensure there are a variety of choices available to them. This includes apprenticeships that enable them to learn new skills, gain qualifications and acquire valuable on-the-job experience in a variety of sectors. We want to ensure Doncaster offers young people all they need to work, live and prosper. Closing the skills gap, which will also see our businesses thrive, will help us achieve this goal.

Kathryn Brentnall, Assistant Principal Quality & Curriculum, Doncaster College

Apprenticeship reforms provide an excellent opportunity for us to grow provision across further and higher education to meet employer needs and satisfy demands for skills. We are working across key employment sectors, particularly where skills gaps already exist or new jobs are being created, in order to ensure our curriculum is aligned to those and reflect need for transferable skills, as important as vocationally specific skills for a future workforce. We support One Doncaster objectives and have a key role to play in developing skills that existing employers and those inwardly investing in Doncaster through the iPort are identifying. Employers, more than ever before, are very clearly key stakeholders, and our combined success will come as a result of listening and delivering a high quality education.

Tina Slater, Head of Business & Education, Doncaster Chamber

To address skills gap, Doncaster Chamber’s Skills Academy is providing support to schools and young people to help better prepare and equip them with skills they require for entering work. Since January the DSA has supported 5,345 students by delivering interactive careers fairs and workshops in primary and secondary schools to help raise careers awareness, aspirations, employability, financial awareness and entrepreneurial skills. Through bridging the gap activities we bring over 100 businesses into schools to tell students and teachers about job opportunities and what skills and qualifications are required. During the next academic year, with support from Doncaster Council and Edge Foundation, we’ll offer all secondary schools funded programme of work readiness activities.

Margaret Herbert, Doncaster resident

Not every child is an academic. Modern day education must revive some of its past curriculums in order to give children who are not gifted with great brains a better chance in life with more practical skills. Maybe now we should look back a little and revive teaching methods such as woodworking, gardening, domestic science, thus producing joiners, bricklayers, gardeners, bakers, cooks and hospital staff (it is not just nurses and doctors that are required in hospitals). Schools need to have close associations with local firms - joinery works, hairdressers, bakeries - as they used to, giving pupils who are keen to follow these trades the opportunity of spending say one day a week with these people (under supervision) to assess if this is really the trade for them and, if so, apprenticeships be drawn up for when they leave school.

Tina Slater

Tina Slater