Teesside businesses must help to close the skills gap to ensure freeport success

Teesside faces a skills shortage and issue with talent retention that could threaten the area’s chance for Freeport success, but Andrew Moorby sees all businesses having a role to play in helping to close the gap.

Mayor Ben Houchen and MP Jacob Young have warned of Teesside’s skills shortage and the risk it poses of allowing other areas of the North East to benefit from the Freeport while Teesside suffers.

Andrew Moorby, our Managing Partner and Head of our Teesside office, believes that businesses and education need to continue to work together to reduce the skills gap and talent retention issue.

Andrew said:

“As the largest planned Freeport, Teesworks is offering us 18,000 long-needed jobs. The business and education community in the region need to work closely together to ensure that the jobs the Freeport creates are attainable for people in the region. If we don’t, then Teesside won’t benefit from the growth promised by the Government.”

We have identified that the skills problem can’t be solved by recruitment alone.

Andrew said:

“We take on graduates and trainees who we train ourselves as well as providing them with greater access to online learning through our MHA training hub and national MHA Training Academy, so they can develop their careers and acquire the skills our industry needs. As a firm, we recognise the importance of training and development and have put this at the forefront of our business and have recently created a Learning and Development function within the business to help improve training and talent retention.

Although up-skilling starts with local education, businesses cannot rely purely on this and every organisation has to develop its workforce and train them in the skills Teesside needs. Otherwise, staff shortages and skills gaps will continue, and costs will rise for businesses.”

He said:

“Many key sectors in the area are aware of the skills shortages and are working to resolve these problems. Development of training programmes and up-skilling challenges are just two of the solutions that will undoubtedly help to close the skills gap.”

Andrew cites construction as a leader in using bespoke training saying:

“Construction understands that the green revolution has necessitated the need to adopt different training methods and modern technologies. Some construction businesses have set up their own training programmes to address their skills shortage and it has been a huge success for them.

The business community is also largely positive that this skill gap can be addressed. A study conducted by North East based law firm Womble Bond Dickinson found that 52% of respondents within a Freeport zone believed that they would create more skilled people over the next 12-24 months.

Local employers and educational institutions need to continue to work together to create the relevant training and support for workers who have the potential to thrive in the Freeport.

An example of educational support that is needed for Teesside is one of the Eton-funded sixth form colleges, to give young people in our area the access to the highest possible standard of education. With three academies agreed to be established in the North, it would be great to see one of those being Teesside to help bolster the Freeport workforce.

The following months will prove crucial, but with the correct support from private and public bodies I have no doubt that Teesside will see overwhelming economic growth and prosperity as a result of the Freeport.

Teesside has a long history of being a leading player in manufacturing and construction, made strong by hard working, skilled craftsmen who take pride in their jobs and their home region. The Freeport is an excellent opportunity for the regeneration and growth of this legacy.”