Improve skills to be competitive, workers are told

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Sean Pritchard, executive director at the States Training and Employment Partnership (TEP), says that Jersey is ‘significantly’ behind the UK in terms of qualifications at foundation level – although the UK itself is third from the bottom of the international scale.

recent survey by Education has found that one in five of the Island’s adult population has basic numeracy and literacy needs.

A survey carried out last year on behalf of TEP showed that almost a third of Jersey workers had no formal qualifications at all.

he skills deficit is becoming more apparent as firms are tending to shed jobs in the wake of the economic downturn.

According to statistics nearly 40 per cent of Island firms are expecting a period of consolidation over the next two years, compared to 25 per cent in the UK.

Mr Pritchard gave the example of a recent job advert which had attracted 65 applications, some from people who were still employed but worried about their future.

A similar post advertised a year ago attracted just two applications.

Eighteen months ago the finance industry was absorbing the lower level skilled people, but now firms are outsourcing those jobs to places like India,’ said Mr Pritchard.

‘Those that do not have foundation skills have nothing to fall back on.

People are more likely to gain suitable employment if they have foundation skills, which in turn is less of a drain on the economy.

Jersey’s position was highlighted during the recent visit by John Harwood, chief executive of the UK’s Learning and Skills Council.

Speaking to senior staff from Highlands College, the Education, Policy and Resources, and Economic Development committees and professional organisations, Mr Harwood said that the UK was currently the biggest supplier of unskilled labour in Europe.

In order to improve that situation the council has come up with a strategy to encourage the adult population to achieve basic qualifications.

It means that everybody has free access to foundation tuition, whatever their age, whereas before they had to pay for it.

Mr Pritchard said that although Jersey did not have the same manufacturing base as the UK, in the construction sector – which employs several thousand workers – only 1.

per cent had any technical qualifications.

‘The message is going out that Jersey is a place of quality, but the research shows that it is not quite that rosy,’ he said.

‘The lack of skills has been a consistent factor all along.

Many of the people with higher level skills have been imported.

There have been enough people applying for jobs, but they just don’t have the skills.

Currently TEP offer funding of up to £4,000 to 16 to 19-year-olds who have not yet achieved foundation skills.

That scheme could be extended, says Mr Pritchard, to include the adult population as a whole.

We have to be flexible to react to the economy.

There has been an adjustment in the balance and we have to respond.

From a social perspective we have to ensure that job seekers are not disadvantaged.

We’ve already made good progress but perhaps now is the time to fine tune.

‘For us to say we’re not going to do anything about it means watching the Jersey economy stagnate while the rest of the world moves on.

Doing nothing is not an option,’ he said.


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