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Local Skills Conference explores city region skills gap

Liverpool Chamber was pleased to co-host the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) Conference, which brought together educators and business leaders to understand current and future skills requirements in the Liverpool City Region.

The event, organised by the LCR Chambers of Commerce, took place at Aintree Racecourse and welcomed more than 200 professionals from across academia and industry to discuss the findings of the Local Skills Improvement Plan and help businesses and training providers to build deeper relationships.

Rob Tabb, policy lead for skills and employability at LCR Combined Authority, began with an overview of the regional labour market and an understanding of how LSIP will inform a long-term skills strategy. His analysis identified a slight reduction in advertised job vacancies in recent months and a number of future projects and opportunities for skills growth.

The summary also highlighted that salary levels in LCR are lower than the national average. Economic inactivity is also up to 4% higher in our region, caused in part by rising mental health problems since the pandemic. Many employers struggle to fill key roles, with a lack of supply having an upward pressure on costs, and the LCRCA is keen to help businesses find ways to invest in more training.

Across a series of panel discussions, delegates debated a range of topics including specific sector skills required by employers, the importance of young people having ‘soft skills’, stronger partnership working and the need for long-term succession planning.

Morgan Sindall’s Gill Roberts highlighted the large volumes of requests for work placements the firm receives and how it is using technology to make it easier for employers to train and support people on placements.

Elaine Bowker, principal of City of Liverpool College, said:

“Employers cannot exist without colleges, and vice versa. Skills has become everyone’s domain and not everyone necessarily understands what a college does and how it can deliver skills and talent to meet current and future needs. A high percentage of our team are dual professionals, with enormous industry experience.

Rachel Hennigan, principal at Hugh Baird College, added:

“It’s important that we understand the values of businesses and what they require, so we encourage an open dialogue and joint delivery with employers. It also helps to motivate students if we can begin with an end in mind and allow them to see the employment opportunities that do exist.”

Sue Patterson from the Manufacturing Technology Centre stressed the need for a joined-up approach, saying:

“Technology sectors are transforming quickly and we need skills to align. A whole value approach is essential, with a well-thought out programme that brings together all aspects of construction, education, housing etc in a single approach to work as a team.”

Jon Dobson from the Brain Charity also highlighted the strengths and talents that neurodiverse candidates can offer to industry and the neurodiversity training packages the charity offers to help businesses to understand how to tap into that workforce.

Rachael Stevens from Knowledge Quarter Liverpool spoke of the exciting potential of the LCR Investment Zone to create 4,000 new jobs, including local talent. She added:

“In terms of skills, we focus on the power of inspiration and we take children on tours of the various specialisms in Knowledge Quarter Liverpool to show them what career paths are possible in their own city region.”

Kimpton’s Matt Breakwell said:

“Decarbonisation is a big growth area, such as replacing large commercial boiler systems with heat pumps and major LED lighting schemes to help boost energy efficiency. Attracting girls into the industry is also a huge challenge for us as we bid to diversify our workforce and we need to highlight that there are lots of roles beyond muddy building sites, such as management, design, estimating or technical roles, which candidates can access after T-Levels.”

Dr Martyn Stewart from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine highlighted the importance of innovators being able to understand what investors are looking for in order to take ideas and projects forward, while Jonathan Coleman from Liverpool Freeport added:

“The sectors we aim to attract such as logistics or maritime are traditionally undersubscribed, so we want to drive more individuals into the courses and opportunities that exist.”

A later panel session, facilitated by our chief executive Paul Cherpeau, featured representatives from all three universities in Liverpool. Claire Brownlie of Liverpool Hope University said:

“Universities originate from a position of satisfying the needs of their local communities. We work hard to ensure our students leave us prepared to enter their sector of choice and help their local communities.

Chris Finn from Liverpool John Moores University said:

“The term ‘soft skills’ is quite misleading as skills such as teamwork, public speaking and networking are actually really difficult to develop. Having a degree might get a candidate an interview, but their mindset and approach will be what gets them the job.”

The University of Liverpool’s Iwan Williams added:

“There is often a clamour for graduates to be oven ready for work, but I think it’s better if they are part-baked with room to develop, rather than the finished article. We also recognise that universities need to make it as easy as possible for businesses to access us and that we are agile to change.”

The LSIP Conference was followed by a School Business Network event, which attracted a further 60 school and business leaders.

Get involved in the Local Skills Improvement Plan and ensure your voice is heard by completing the most recent survey here. View the event highlights video & impact report below.