Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, Skills Minister Robert Halfon, and Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake are among the notable speakers at the event.
The Skills for Growth conference, organized by the UK Government, is a collaborative effort bringing together some of the biggest British and international companies to address urgent recruitment needs and create a future-ready workforce.
The conference aims to drive innovation, foster partnerships with businesses, and promote collective growth.
Notable speakers at the event include Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, Skills Minister Robert Halfon, and Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake. They are accompanied by the government’s independent skills policy adviser, Sir Michael Barber.
Urgent Need for Skilled Workers
Leading employers such as Google, Amazon, BP, BAE Systems, Virgin Atlantic, Thames Water, Greene King, and Travis Perkins are actively participating in discussions revolving around the future of skills.
The pressing need for skilled workers has been underscored by the 1,051,000 job vacancies recorded in the UK in May 2023, as reported by the Office for National Statistics. Nearly a quarter of these vacancies resulted from skills shortages, emphasizing the significance of targeted interventions.
Building a Future-Ready Workforce
Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, highlighted the vital role of skilled workers in propelling organizations forward, drawing an analogy to driving with the handbrake on in the absence of these skills.
The government’s commitment to investing in future skills for growth and their call for collaborative efforts from businesses underscore the importance of building a workforce that can meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt acknowledged the low unemployment rates in the UK but emphasized the presence of one million job vacancies, which necessitates equipping businesses with the skilled workforce required to bolster the economy and combat inflation.
The conference serves as a platform for prominent British businesses to come together and ensure that the workforce is well-equipped to thrive in the evolving landscape.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch expressed the need for successful companies to have skilled workforces. She emphasized the significance of understanding and fulfilling business needs through an effective skills system, ultimately fostering the creation of highly skilled jobs and driving economic growth.
The conference acts as a crucial conduit for government support and collaboration with businesses to cultivate the necessary skills base for the future job market.
Government Initiatives and Collaboration
Parallel to the conference, the government is urging employers to embrace apprenticeships, particularly for younger workers, and increase investments in training and upskilling their workforce.
Government-backed initiatives such as Skills Bootcamps, Free Courses for Jobs, and an additional £2.7 billion funding for apprenticeships underscore the commitment to bridging skills gaps and enabling businesses to navigate the changing demands of the market.
Knowledge-Sharing and Collaboration
With over 200 delegates representing various sectors like engineering, aerospace, digital technology, retail, and environmental management, the conference offers a platform for knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
Participants, including apprentices, T Level students, individuals pursuing Higher Technical Qualifications, and Skills Bootcamp participants, will share their experiences, highlighting the benefits of government skill programs.
The event, delivered in partnership with World Skills UK, showcases the participation of skilled UK professionals in the world’s largest competitive skills showcase. Previous winners of World Skills events will also be present to engage in discussions and share their invaluable experiences.
Driving Economic Growth and Prosperity
By amassing a critical mass of expertise, the Business Connect – Skills for Growth conference aims to inspire business leaders and stimulate economic growth.
By creating jobs, fostering prosperity, and providing equal opportunities to people from all backgrounds, the conference aims to address the critical skills gaps that businesses currently face.
Industry Perspectives on Skills
Google’s Senior Director and MD for Technology, Media, Telecoms & Apps, David Black, emphasized the significance of digital skills in boosting productivity and unlocking economic opportunities.
Black expressed delight in collaborating with the government to share expertise and address the UK’s skills gap, leveraging their extensive reach across the country to train and equip individuals for success in their businesses and careers.
Amazon’s VP and UK Country Manager, John Boumphrey, stressed the vital role of skills investment in business success and employee satisfaction.
Recognizing the need for collaboration among the public, private, and education sectors, Boumphrey emphasized the importance of creating initiatives and pathways to nurture the workforce of the future.
Amazon’s efforts include offering apprenticeships, retraining opportunities, and improved access to work for underrepresented individuals.
Ian Muldowney, Chief Operating Officer of BAE Systems Air Sector, highlighted the crucial role of apprenticeships in ensuring a pipeline of skilled talent that strengthens their workforce and supports UK sovereign capabilities. Drawing from personal experience as a former apprentice, Muldowney underscored the significance of maintaining next-generation skills and ingenuity through apprenticeship programs.
Nick Roberts, CEO of Travis Perkins plc and Construction Leadership Council Industry Sponsor for People & Skills, stressed the magnitude of the skills gap in the construction industry and its impact on the UK economy.
Roberts emphasized the need for diverse and skilled workforces, outlining the Construction Leadership Council’s plan to create entry routes for high-skilled, well-paid jobs. He emphasized the importance of partnership with the government to deliver this plan and foster a thriving built environment.
Representatives from KPMG UK, PwC, Thames Water, Severn Trent, Virgin Atlantic, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), and other notable organizations echoed the sentiments of driving upskilling, fostering diversity, and investing in the future talent pool.
These sentiments were aligned with the government’s emphasis on expanding apprenticeship schemes, supporting T-Level students, and providing access to career opportunities.
A Beacon of Hope for the Future
The Skills for Growth conference serves as a beacon of hope, bringing together influential figures from the government and industry leaders to address the pressing skills gap challenge.
By collaborating across sectors and implementing innovative education pathways, the conference seeks to equip the next generation with the skills needed to navigate an AI-powered world and secure the UK’s long-term economic and social prosperity.
Thames Water’s Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Cathryn Ross, stressed the importance of investing in skills to foster successful and sustainable careers. She emphasized expanding apprenticeship schemes and welcoming T-Level students to build a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Ross underscored the commitment to social mobility, offering access to career opportunities that drive both personal growth and economic progress.
With businesses like Amazon, Google, and BAE Systems actively engaged, the conference’s impact is expected to be far-reaching. By leveraging the collective expertise and addressing critical skills gaps, the UK aims to cultivate a workforce that can flourish in an ever-evolving landscape, ensuring a prosperous future for all.