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Industries must ‘strengthen future workforces with local talent’

The region’s industries must become “infused with local talent” to strengthen future workforces in the face of challenges such as Brexit.

Stuart Lord, operations director at Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood, highlighted the importance of apprenticeships and their perception during a panel debate in Knowsley yesterday (3 May).

Lord appeared alongside Christine Gilbert, the former head of Ofsted and chair of Knowsley’s Education Commission; Lynsey Merryweather, HR manager of Knowsley-based Clarke Energy; David Williams, the North West managing director of Bellway Homes; and Michelle Dow, managing director of All About STEM for the ‘Workforce of the Future’ discussion at Knowsley Community College.

The Knowsley Ambassadors session, which was chaired by Carmel Booth – a Knowsley Place Board member and chief executive of Atlantic Gateway – was attended by representatives of businesses and schools across the Liverpool City Region borough.

As both panelists and guests at the event stressed a need for more integration among the private sector and education, Lord said: “We’ve been really pleased with how our apprenticeship scheme has developed but we still need to change the perception about what an apprenticeship scheme is. It’s not attractive.”

The automotive industry representative explained that, at Jaguar Land Rover, the career path is about training young people to use the latest technology but is also about developing leaders.

Concerns over the perception of apprenticeships were also echoed by Williams, who suggested such opportunities in the housebuilding sector were often associated with manual jobs such as bricklaying and joinery, despite there being a number of office based roles.

Lord added: “With Brexit coming we need to infuse our industries with local talent so they can be our future.

“We need to make it so that we’re self feeding, ideally from a local community.”

The debate highlighted a need for firms and schools to strengthen their partnerships to address the demands of industries and the education sector.

Suggestions such as more private sector representatives joining school governing bodies, and more focus on industries working with primary schools to increase awareness of job opportunities earlier to raise aspirations among pupils and parents were put forward during the debate.