More diversity in the workforce is vital for the county’s future

Creating the diverse and skilled workforce of the future and unlocking opportunities for more people are vital to the economic wellbeing of Lancashire.

Those were some of the key issues to come out of the Lancashire Business Week 2021 session on skills and recruitment.

It heard of work being carried out to develop the skills of people from more disadvantaged areas and backgrounds and the drive to attract more women into engineering and the digital sectors.

Peter Caney, head of service innovation, future capability and projects, BAE Systems, spoke of the defence giant’s “exciting challenge” as it looks to create the Lancashire workforce that will help deliver Tempest, the UK’s future combat air system.

He said: “Wherever we operate we need the diverse talent of individuals coming through our organisation.

“We are trying to attract more females into engineering, that is a real focus for us, and making sure our workforce represents the community in which it sits.”

And he added: “If we are trying to attract that diverse talent pool, we have to think differently about how we recruit and that is something we are focusing heavily on.”

Peter also told the audience: “Lancashire is a really connected hotbed of eco-systems around skills, education and employment.”

Danielle Brown, commercial director of IN4 Group, which delivers digital skills training in Lancashire and the North West, said it was vital to “remove the barriers to participation where we can.”

And she posed the question to everyone: “How can we make our recruitment process and skills training more inclusive?”

Danielle also told the online audience of IN4 Group’s specific work to get more women into the digital sector.

And she revealed how it worked to upskill 450 people a year, many from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds, explaining: “They haven’t necessarily had the opportunity they should have.”

Danielle told the online audience it was important to make sure that those people were “work ready” when they moved into full-time employment.

She also said job candidates were more willing to invest in their personal development and were looking for roles with ethical and responsible employers. “Flexibility” was another key issue as was real career progression.

Michele Lawty-Jones, director of the Lancashire Skills Hub, said the jobs market was recovering from the impact of the pandemic, with 40,000 vacancies advertised in the county in the last 60 days.

And she added: “We’ve seen the emergence of the green skills agenda with 6,000 jobs advertised in the last two months.”

Michelle told the conference that it was forecast that by 2030 there would be an additional 44,000 jobs in the green economy.

She said: “There are going to be a significant number of business opportunities within that area.”

Digital was another area of growth, but she also revealed that only one in six of the sector’s workforce in the county were women at present.

She said: “We are working with schools and college to encourage females through that pipeline to encourage a more diverse workforce.”

The announcement that the National Cyber Force, with its £5 billion budget and expectation of more than 2,000 jobs, will be based in Samlesbury, was another major positive.

And Michelle said the quality of Lancashire’s universities, colleges and schools played a major part in Lancashire being selected.

She said that employers needed to adjust to the new ways of working and how they can attract people into their organisations, saying: “They have got the think ‘why would somebody want to work for my business?’ and look after those people once they have got them.”

Neil Burrows, assistant principal at Burnley College said: “Our curriculum offer has to reflect the skills challenge of Lancashire businesses. That is absolutely key.

“It is about listening and understanding what businesses want. We need that employer involvement as much as possible.”

He also spoke of the need for more people from business and industry to come into the classroom to share their skills and knowledge.

He said: “We need the right people in our college delivering the right skills. We are always trying to recruit the right people, looking to bring people from industry into the college. We can give them the teaching skills.

“It’s helping them understand they can come into education and have the confidence to stand in front of a class.”

Chris Smith, managing director of Nelson-based Pendle Engineering, also underlined the importance of business and education and skills providers working together.

He said: “As an employer you want to be able to have some input and to have the confidence that the training providers are listening to the direct challenges on the line.”

He said that many businesses had been in survival mode during the pandemic but added: “You need to have one eye on the long term and there is nothing more important than the skills pipeline in your organisation.”

Chris also spoke of the impact upskilling can have on communities in Lancashire and said skills were high on the agenda when it came to Nelson’s £25m Towns Deal.

He added: “The pandemic has changed people’s views on careers and what they spend their time doing. We have got to respond to that as a company; if we don’t, we are going to be left behind.”

It was important to empower people at every level of the business, he said, adding: “It is always cheaper to retain than recruit.”

Watch this event in full here.

Other dates for your diary:

9am, Wednesday 8 December: Engagement, communication, wellbeing online

9am, Thursday 9 December: Managing change online

8am, Friday 10 December: Resilience to recovery at AMRC North West

Headline sponsor of Lancashire Business Week is CG Professional.

Lancashire Business Week is also backed by patrons, Beever and Struthers, Bigtank, Burnley.co.uk, Burnley College, Cotton Court, IN4 Group, Lancashire Skills Hub, Nugent Sante and Zigaflow.

Venue patron is AMRC, and Lexus Preston is a supporter. Social media for Lancashire Business Week is powered by Boost Business Lancashire.