A skilful approach to growth

Lancashire is in a prime position to benefit from the digitalisation drive, the reshoring of manufacturing back to the UK and the new emerging green economy.

Urging the county to come together to take full advantage of them, Mo Isap, founder and chief executive of IN4.0 Group, said: “We have a huge opportunity in Lancashire. We have all of the assets.”

He stressed it was vital for the county to come together with a cohesive message and to upskill the existing workforce, as well as providing the right skills for the new generation of workers to seize the opportunities.

And he outlined how collaboration between education, businesses and skills providers was already working to the benefit of the county to create opportunities.

Highlighting IN4.0’s fast track graduate recruitment and development programme, and the support received from the University of Central Lancashire and BAE Systems, Mo said: “This is how Lancashire can come together and change people’s lives.”

He was speaking at today’s Lancashire Business Week Breakfast Blast, focusing on jobs and skills.

CG Professional was the headline sponsor of the event, hosted by Lancashire Business View. A series of Breakfasts Blasts are planned every morning this week looking at a range of issues of importance to the county’s business community.

The event heard that job vacancies across the North West are growing, despite the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with an ever-increasing demand for digital skills.

Michele Lawty-Jones, director of Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub, revealed there had been a 40 per cent increase in vacancies between March and October this year.

She said that in July, 208,000 people, a third of the county’s workforce, had been on furlough.

That number dropped to 61,000 in August and Michele said: “What is really good in terms of that drop is that it looks like people were being re-engaged by their businesses.”

She revealed how the workforce is also adapting to the new job climate. Michele said people were “pivoting their skills, re-skilling and transferring skills” as they looked at opportunities that they may not have thought about before.

Kam Kothia, who chairs Star Academies, a Blackburn-headquartered trust that operates 29 free schools and academies across the UK, said that a broad-based curriculum was important to set young people off on their skills journey.

He said: “It is absolutely the responsibility of a school to prepare all their children, not just for work, but for life.”

Kam said learning leadership skills was an important part of school life across the trust, ranging from community service to debating.

He explained: “By employing these throughout the curriculum we are giving each of our children the opportunity to improve their leadership skills.”

Kam also related the growth and success of Star Academies, from its humble beginnings in a Blackburn terraced street to having the best performing school for attainment in the country.

Neil Burrows, assistant principal of Burnley College, told the online audience that communication and consultation between education providers and businesses was increasingly important to ensure the right skills were being delivered.

He said the college had been working hard to build up its employer network as it looked to what it could do to support the county’s economic recovery as it emerged from the pandemic.

He said: “Rather than talk about qualifications we talk about how we can support and work with business. It is about that collaboration, working and speaking to each other.”

Susan Scurlock, chief executive and founder of Primary Engineer, which works to bring engineering into the classroom, said: “We are seeing a massive change in skills needs.”

But she said that had also opened up the chance to “encourage children to look around them and see what the opportunities are”.

She said it was important to give young people the chance to see the skills utilised in engineering and to use that to inspire them.

Victoria Nixon, site training manager at Westinghouse, which operates the Springfields nuclear fuel production site near Preston, said digital skills had become increasingly important to the operation during the pandemic.

The business, which had delivered engineering training for 70 years, has built up close links with local universities and colleges in other training areas such as digital technology.

The Springfields site is also the home of a new clean energy technology park and sits in the middle of the North West Nuclear Arc. Victoria said: “There are massive opportunities ahead. What some of the technical jobs of the future will be, I can only imagine.”

To watch this event in full, click here.

Lancashire Business Week is also backed by patrons AMRC North West, Beever and Struthers, Burnley.co.uk, Burnley College, Community Foundation for Lancashire, FW Capital, IN4.0 Group, Lancashire 2025 and PDS Engineering. Utiligroup is a supporter. The media partners are Downtown in Business, Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce and lovelocalnetworking.

For full details and line-up, visit: https://bit.ly/LBW2020