[A] major campaign is launched today aimed at encouraging Cumbrian businesses to take advantage of the support on offer to help them tackle a looming skills and labour shortage in the county.
Businesses must recruit 80,300 workers by 2021 to replace those retiring or leaving, and to fill newly-created jobs.
Forty per cent of these will need to be educated at Level 4 or above. At present, only 28 per cent of the county’s working-age population is qualified to this level.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “With a shrinking working-age population and strong demand, recruiting talent from outside your business as and when required is no longer the easy option.
“Skills need to be developed from within a company’s existing workforce, which could include, for example, investing in apprenticeship schemes.”
Free training is available to businesses with fewer than 250 staff (full time equivalent) throughout the county. It covers the full range of business activities from manufacturing to hospitality, farming to retail, hairdressing to digital services.
To take advantage of the free training on offer businesses should call Cumbria Business Growth Hub on 0844 257 84 50.
A specialist adviser will carry out a review of their training needs and opportunities to identify where improved skills could help.
They pass the assessment to an experienced training provider, or providers, who contacts the business to arrange training programmes funded through the scheme and elsewhere.
Training is available for new and existing staff.
This support is available through the £8.5m Employees Support in Skills project which was launched last year. The project is funded by the European Social Fund via the Education & Skills Funding Agency and supported by Cumbria LEP.
Other partners in the project include Carlisle, Furness, Kendal and Lakes Colleges, the University of Cumbria, Newton Rigg, Gen2 and SP Training.
Under the strapline, Profiting through Skills, a major marketing campaign is now underway to encourage uptake of training and apprenticeship opportunities by employers and promote the ESF project in particular.
The campaign runs throughout September with radio, TV and bus advertising, social media and a special edition magazine distributed to businesses and advisers.
There is also a Profiting Through Skills website, https://www.cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk/skills
Rob added: “The pot of money is £8.5m, so there’s plenty of training funding available.
“Time is not on our side though. Businesses need to take advantage of the funding scheme before July 2018.
“We may never see skills funding at this level again, at least not from the EU, so employers should see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could transform and add significant value to their operations.”