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Recruiting crisis: Schools are failing to provide the workers we need, warn British industries

Teachers' 'antipathy' towards careers such as hospitality is increasing Britain's reliance on EU workers

The Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on migration, has highlighted widespread dissatisfaction about the extent to which schools are equipping pupils with the skills needed by British industries.

A report from the committee states: “Among high-skilled occupations, employers in many sectors expressed concerns about skills shortages in Stem [science, technology, engineering and maths] areas, suggesting that UK schools and universities were not training sufficient workers in these areas or were not providing students with sufficient business-relevant skills.”

The report also states that employers in lower-skilled sectors expressed “some dissatisfaction with the education system”.

The British Hospitality Association submitted evidence to the committee, saying: “A career in hospitality is viewed differently in many continental European countries compared to the UK, and this ‘cultural bias’ is reflected in a deeply held antipathy towards the sector from too many parents, careers advisers and teachers.

“Substantial reform in vocational educational is needed to ensure that the next generation of people entering the labour market view the hospitality sector in a more positive light.”

If no immigration from Europe is permitted, the association estimated that it would need to recruit an additional 62,000 UK workers per year.

The UK Fashion and Textile Organisation said not enough UK pupils were learning how to sew. It told the committee: “European migrant workers are often more highly skilled than their UK counterparts, partly due to the fact that manufacturing skills, such as sewing, are still taught in schools in Eastern Europe.”

There were also concerns from the Creative Industries Federation, which said there was “inadequate provision in schools, an underdeveloped technical education system and a lack of awareness about careers that the sector has to offer”. It added: “These gaps are only set to get worse as the number of people studying creative subjects continues to decline.”

Finance and insurance companies were concerned at the lack of language skills, while technology firms suggested that the education system was not adapting quickly enough to produce digital talent, and manufacturers wanted more people skilled in science, engineering and maths, according to the report.

The report stated that migration would be the only way to alleviate staff shortages quickly, particularly in highly skilled occupations, which it takes years to train for. Although it added that in some cases the level of skill required for some jobs “seemed exaggerated”.

Employers in many sectors, including aerospace, agriculture, energy and communications, also said that they worked with schools to promote their industries and the skills needed.

The education sector itself submitted evidence, saying that European teachers were necessary to help schools to cope with the recruitment crisis – with the NAHT heads’ union adding that the government should take “swift action” to guarantee they can stay.

The committee has been asked to provide evidence for a post-Brexit migration system with the final report due in September 2018.

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