Business leaders call on next South Yorkshire mayor to tackle massive skills shortage which is ‘holding region back’

Business leaders across South Yorkshire have called on the region’s new mayor to tackle a massive skills shortage which is ‘holding the region back’.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 10:01 am

Chambers of Commerce heads in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley have joined forces to urge the next mayor to implement their recommendations to make sure people are upskilled to fill vital roles in boosting the regional economy.

The new mayor will be challenged to develop a new Skills Strategy within 100 days of taking office and business leaders want the new mayor to lobby Government for further devolution of powers and resources to impact skills policy.

The chambers are also set to publish their own manifesto for the mayor to implement which includes 40 practical recommendations ‘for a more agile and responsive skills system’ in South Yorkshire which ‘drives opportunity, productivity, and wages’.

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The chambers consulted hundreds of businesses as part of the project and worked in tandem with other business organisations including the CBI, FSB, Manufacturing Forum, and Sheffield Digital.

The chambers are using the manifesto launch to call on Government to pilot in South Yorkshire a new cash grant award scheme to incentivise employer engagement on skills with schools, colleges and universities.

Chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, Dan Fell, said: “Skills drive productivity and wages and the average output of workers in South Yorkshire is around 20 per cent lower than for the UK – a gap that hasn’t narrowed in nearly 20 years.

“Our region underperforms the UK on most indicators of employee skills, and this is borne out by the fact that South Yorkshire businesses are facing record skills shortages.

“If the output of South Yorkshire’s workers equalled England’s average, the region’s economy would be £7.2bn bigger.”Andrew Denniff, chief executive of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber, added: “Employers have told us they want to get involved in developing curriculums, programmes, and qualifications but there’s a gap in what they say and how involved they are. This needs to change.

“If the share of South Yorkshire’s population with higher-level qualifications matched England’s, an extra 49,000 people would be qualified to NVQ level 4 or above in our region.”

Karen Mosley, Sheffield Chamber president, added: “We must release the hidden workforce potential in our communities and that’s why we’re calling on whoever is elected as mayor in early May to put the skills agenda front and centre.”