Mayor candidates put to test on skills issue

London Mayoral hopefuls put workplace skills high on the political agenda last week, urging employers to invest in training at a debate on skills and employment in London.

But frontrunner, independent candidate Ken Livingstone, pulled out of the debate, organised by the London Skills Forecasting Unit, at the last minute leaving rivals to outline their policies in his absence.

Frank Dobson (Lab) described as absurd a situation in which employers struggle with skills shortages while large numbers of people on their doorstep are unemployed.

He said changes are needed to the provision of training in London. “We have to recognise the training system’s job is to meet the needs of employers, and that really has not been as well carried out as it should have been.”

Stephen Norris (Con) said employers in other countries would be horrified by the failure of many British organisations to grow their own talent.

Susan Kramer (Lib Dem) added that employers have to stop thinking of London as a low-cost place to employ people because they “don’t have to do training”.

Ram Gidoomal (Christian Democrat) said it was imperative that racism and other forms of discrimination in the capital are tackled. “London is crippled by inequality,” he said.

All four made a concerted effort to woo the ethnic minority vote pledging to tackle discrimination in the workplace.


Skills at a premium in capital

Skills in London are at an all-time premium, according to a study by the London Skills Forecasting Unit.

The city has experienced the fastest rate of employment growth in the UK over the past year. Employers are increasingly drawing on the East and South East for staff.

The unit’s second annual report says that unless resolved, the skills shortages will continue to put pressure on the city’s labour market.

And it says IT skills have become the third skill after numeracy and literacy.

A continual supply of skilled staff is essential for organisations to remain competitive, the report states. “The minimum skills requirement is increasing for all employees and multi-skilling can be expected to be the norm in the workplace.”

The study sets out key areas and recommendations for a number of sectors including IT, manufacturing and financial and business services.

IT and hospitality are highlighted as areas for concern.

More than two in three companies were found to have a shortage of dedicated IT staff.

The hospitality sector has the highest staff turnover rates with one in three full-time staff leaving their job in the last year.

By Helen Rowe

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