Government launches £200m training project to tackle skills shortages

The government has launched a £200m training project in a bid to tackle UK skills shortages and avoid relying on migrant workers to fill the gaps.

John Denham, secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills, announced the funding will pay for specialist training colleges focusing on construction, IT, finance, science and engineering industries over the next three years.

“Eastern European migrants have filled shortages but, in the longer term, this is not something we want to rely on,” said Denham. “People can go as quickly as they come.”

Government research suggests nearly two million workers will be needed to maintain a competitive economy between 2004 and 2014.

Shortages include 600,000 skilled building workers, 500,000 IT staff, and more than 300,000 trained in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

A survey by the Skills Council for Engineering and Technology found that 40% of companies in the pharmaceutical industry, one of the UK’s leading employers, had difficulty filling posts because of shortages of workers with scientific skills.

Employers are estimated to be spending £38bn a year on training, the majority of it on staff already in their workforce.

“We are making a lot of progress, but the fact is too much of our skills training is based on a hope that employers will train people in the skills the economy will need in the medium term,” said Denham.

“If we are to be certain our economy is equipped to face future challenges, we will need in the future to do more than to continue to rely on hope.”

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