The South West’s pre-eminence in sustainability and new environmental technologies is providing a dynamic platform for the region’s future economic prosperity, but finding and developing the skills to feed this burgeoning sector of industry is creating quite a challenge. That is the view of Alison Cox who is partnership manager with Business Link’s Skills service.
She believes that by recognising the opportunities at this early stage and addressing the challenges and threats presented by a potential skills gap, the south west is in prime position to build on the confidence derived from so many early success stories in this arena.
She said: “To meet the national 2020 targets for carbon reduction, we will require a 100% increase in the number of qualified workers who are able to offer the correct sustainable solutions and to install the most appropriate renewable technologies.
“Ensuring the regional workforce has the skills and practical experience to harness the new employment opportunities presented by the inexorable growth of the green economy is, therefore, a very real priority.”
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate there are already nearly 2,000 businesses operating within the environmental technologies sector in the south west. Estimates suggest that the so-called green sector has already created more than 7,000 jobs in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset alone and generated in excess of £500 million GVA.
Cox added: “For employers in the environmental technologies field too, the need for proven skills and experience is of paramount importance. The region’s green momentum can only be sustained with the development and availability of the right skills on the ‘doorstep’.”
In the short–term, Cox says that importing such high level skills and the related technologies is really the only option. And she said: “But this should then be used as a catalyst and foundation to address the skills gap so that the region is not just a short-term magnet but is also using its developing infrastructure in environmental technologies to establish future skills development to the highest level.
“This will not be achieved overnight, but is of critical importance in helping to sustain and develop the progress that is being made in this field of industry here in the south west.”