As the UK economy continues to specialise in high-skilled, knowledge-intensive activities, the availability of workers with these attributes is an increasingly important consideration for business communities in Somerset and Wiltshire who are trying to nurture growth in the modern economy.
If the area is going to compete it needs the best possible pool of talent with plenty of good candidates for businesses to choose from. But, the truth is, we have a very low rate of unemployment and lack of available workforce is now becoming a huge issue.
As the labour market tightens it imposes an increased upward pressure on wages. This makes it harder for small businesses in particular to recruit or expand without offering higher worker benefits that bigger business rivals can potentially do. The knock-on effect is that many small businesses are struggling to grow because they simply cannot fill job vacancies with the right people at the right cost.
In our region we are already seeing a ‘pull’ to Hinkley Point C which is adding an extra headache for small business owners. It’s difficult for independent small businesses to compete with the higher salaries that Hinkley can offer.
The skills issues are not helped by the fact that neither Somerset nor Wiltshire have a University. This is an issue that both counties are looking to address because it’s known that a university can help keep well-educated young people in the county rather than losing them to high-flying jobs elsewhere.
So for the sake of our communities, our businesses and our regional economy we simply must do everything we can to train and educate our young people. We need to offer them the housing and transport solutions they need so they can feel that staying in Somerset or Wiltshire is a clear, logical choice for those with ambition and skill who also want to enjoy a good quality of life.