New skills required

It will take a lot more than rousing patriotic speeches to deliver a post-COVID economic recovery or tackle the challenges facing industry after Brexit becomes a reality next year. On top of that, we will all be expected to play our part in the PM’s £12bn ‘green industrial revolution’. Laudable and attractive as his plans sound, there is no magic wand that will suddenly conjure up workers with the relevant skills needed to make good his vision.

Our scientists, doctors, and nurses (and others in the front line of the Coronavirus pandemic) have demonstrated their skills and dedication over recent months. But we should not overlook obvious deficiencies in other sectors if we are to build a brighter future for Britain. The rhetoric must be backed up by significant investment in updating workforce skills.

Citing just one example, we are going to need an army of skilled workers to install low carbon heating units into houses that currently have gas boilers which the Government is threatening to ban. We are told that this transformation could create 250,000 extra jobs, but the HomeServe Foundation recently revealed that five out of six householders who applied for a Green Homes Grant have been unable to find installers able to carry out the work.

Elsewhere, Moody Logistics & Storage recently estimated that the UK currently has a shortage of 50,000 qualified LGV drivers to shift food, goods, and services around the UK. It will not help the recovery if they cannot be found. Initiatives are underway, including driver apprenticeships, but the shortfall must be made up, and quickly.

With UK unemployment soaring due to COVID and the uncertain economic outlook, there is clearly a desperate need to retrain so workers can find different jobs in other sectors. Those already employed will also need to be retrained in new and emerging work practices– it is a continual process. And, finally, those starting out would do well to acquire the vocational qualifications that will appeal to employers looking to nurture new talent through apprenticeships. If gaps are not filled, all the grand plans could so easily come to nought.

A greener world, especially in sectors like waste, oil, and energy, will require a new breed of engineer to implement change right across manufacturing and the whole industrial spectrum. In anticipation of the tide of change, UnitBirwelco has already recruited 16 apprentices who we will train to help usher in the new era. Small steps, but this is just the beginning.