Skills gap challenge for manufacturing sector in The Marches

February 17, 2016

Almost three-quarters of all manufacturing businesses are reporting hard-to-fill vacancies with engineering being the most common gap in workforce skills, according to a survey by The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.

The issues facing the sector were highlighted in the research commissioned by the Marches LEP to assess the skills challenges being experienced by the area’s advanced manufacturing and engineering sector.

Manufacturing businesses employ approximately 37,600 people in the Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin area, 14% of the total workforce in the Marches LEP.

The survey showed that larger businesses were more likely to report engineering skills gaps than their smaller counterparts, although nine out of 10 businesses in the 50-99 employee band reported an engineering skills gap.

Two-thirds (68%) of businesses said that the main level of qualification needed by their employees was apprenticeships.

Professor Ian Oakes, Chairman of the Marches LEP Skills Board, said: “The sector’s employers have told us, both in meetings and through the survey, that they need support to help close skills gaps which exist in their sector.

“These companies are often major employers with substantial supply chains, and it is critically important for the vitality of the Marches economy that the manufacturing and engineering sector is able to thrive. Access to an appropriately skilled workforce is of particular importance to the sector’s sustainability and growth potential.

“The findings from this research will really help us shape our future commissioning of skills and training support in the Marches.

“We are working closely with the manufacturing and engineering sector to understand their requirements ahead of a project later this year that will be specifically aimed at closing the skills gap and working with providers and colleges to ensure the right training is available to employers.”

49% of the businesses that responded reported shortages in engineering skills and nearly two thirds (62%) of businesses said they anticipated some sort of change in their skills requirement over the next five to 10 years.

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The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has now ceased trading and transferred all its functions to Shropshire Council working with Telford & Wrekin Council and Herefordshire Council, in line with the UK Government's plans for devolution.

The Marches LEP was established in 2011 and hands over an impressive legacy from its 13-year life. In that time the LEP invested over £196m in projects across the Marches, securing in excess of £100m of match funding and supported more than 66,000 business interactions.

The schemes supported have made tangible differences to local communities, increasing skills, creating jobs and improving the physical appearance of many towns.

We would like to thank all the LEP Board Members who have given their time freely over the life of the LEP, as well as all the staff who worked for the LEP over the years. We also want to thank our delivery partners, local education providers and local, regional and national stakeholders who helped us achieve so much.

The Marches Growth Hub will continue to support businesses and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Each of the three Local Authorities will also continue to provide direct business support locally. Details of this support will be available through the Marches Growth Hub website and from the Local Authorities directly. Website: | email:

The Marches Careers Hub will continue to be delivered and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Website: | email:

For any queries about Getting Building Fund (GBF), Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Marches Investment Fund (MIF) projects supported by the Marches LEP please contact:

For any finance queries please contact:

The solvent liquidation of the Marches LEP is being managed by the Evelyn Partners Limited. For any matter related to this please contact:

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