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Develop Training: 2018 is the year the government must act on skills crisis

5 January 2018

The apprenticeship levy is destined to turn into a “hollow and wasted opportunity” if the government doesn’t act urgently in 2018, warns a leading training specialist.

Chris Wood, (pictured) CEO of construction, utilities and energy sector skills specialist Develop Training Ltd (DTL), said another pressing issue in the New Year would be responding to a spike in demand for skilled engineers, fuelled by the government’s drive to install smart meters in homes nationwide.

Mr Wood said: “Recent statistics supplied by the Department for Education suggest that the Levy is not generating an uplift in the number of apprenticeships. Firms seem either to view the Levy as a mildly irritating additional tax or fail to understand the basic mechanisms behind it. If the Government wants to realise the potential of the Levy in 2018, and with it an increase in skilled labour, then it needs to increase awareness and demonstrate the scheme's effectiveness in delivering worthwhile training programmes. If it doesn't the Levy will join many other historic initiatives as a hollow and wasted opportunity.”

On smart metering, he said: “The Government back-pedalled earlier in 2017 by requiring utility suppliers only to offer smart meters to all householders by 2020 rather than actually have them installed. This reduced the urgency for installation and the need to deal with an absence of trained fitters. Nevertheless, the ongoing future requirement for millions of smart meters will see the demand for appropriately trained engineers increase dramatically through 2018 and beyond. This will be supplemented by an increasing need for domestic charging points for electrical vehicles.”

He said training would need to address not only technical skills shortages but softer skills such as dealing with customers: “Clearly, the basic required skills will be technical,” said Mr Wood. “However, with ever greater public interaction and increasing consumer expectations, utility companies will need to focus more heavily on ensuring that their engineers are suitably trained in the softer skills such as those needed to ensure good customer relations.”

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