CSR and Bridging the Skills Gap

Business leaders from the water, power and construction industries are facing a significant shortage of skilled workers.

Introducing apprenticeships, and getting involved in CSR initiatives with young people, will help prevent this recruitment time bomb.

Newly published data from CSR experts Business in the Community reveals that the UK is 15% less productive than France, Germany and the US because its working population is less skilled. The UK does not have workers with the necessary technical skills to keep up with the pace of change. Figures also show that 80% of those who will make up the workforce in 2020 are already out of formal education.

One of the major issues for firms is the lack of take up in schools of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is true across all socio-economic groups, but there are particular needs in deprived areas.

Business in the Community recently took a group of business leaders from the water, power and construction industries on a visit to see how the skills gap could be bridged in practice.

They visited a London school to see how an initiative called STEMNET was being used to create excitement about learning scientific subjects. It uses creativity and problem solving to demonstrate to students how science can be fun.

As part of the visit, the business leaders also met young people already training in their sector. They had a chance to find out the challenges the young people faced in getting training and the value of CSR programmes, which addressed this.

A recent initiative from the Construction Youth Trust also aims to bridge the skills gap, specifically in the construction industry. It has just launched a mobile classroom which it hopes will reach 1,200 young people a year. It will offer training and careers advice to young people, particularly those in most need.

The mobile classroom is decked out like a workman’s van – with tools and equipment to introduce youngsters to carpentry, tiling, plumbing, painting and decorating. The Youth Construction Trust said experience showed that travel was a real barrier to disadvantaged young people. The mobile classroom tackles that issue head on.
Initiatives like this classroom, and, on a larger scale, the offering of apprenticeships are a win win from a CSR perspective.

If businesses want to ensure continuity, and a skilled workforce, they will need to get involved themselves. One company which has realised this is British Gas, which has just launched a new two-year IT apprenticeship scheme for school leavers. It will recruit 30 school leavers from this September.

This is an issue of which the UK Government is keenly aware. In this year’s budget, the Chancellor promised £180m in funding for apprenticeships.

With Government support, and the promise of a more skilled workforce, apprenticeships are an obvious solution.

Photo credit: Citizen Schools Photos