12 July 2016

The Northamptonshire economy is continuing to thrive but skills remain the hottest topic under discussion by local businesses, it was confirmed at the first Northampton College Skills Summit this week.

A group of companies met at the college to discuss the latest economic picture following presentations from accountants Grant Thornton, Barclays, Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce.

Business heard that ‘Northamptonshire Limited’ is getting stronger with the Top 100 privately owned businesses reporting growth of nearly 9% over the last year. New job opportunities have also increased with an 11% boost to the workforces of these pivotal companies that represent the engine of the local economy.

Jo Lappin from Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership reported that 81.6% of the working age population is economically active compared with a national average of just 77.8%. Employment is lower than average at just 1.6% and in some areas, job density means that there is more than one job available per working person.

But in spite of this positive picture, businesses continue to report that they are facing skills shortages within their workforce. The county underperforms in terms of qualification levels and productivity is relatively low. The labour market is tight and there is high demand for technical and professional skills.

Assistant Principal, James Whybrow, said:

“We have heard from businesses at our Skills Summit that companies are struggling with time pressures to plan for training and that they are most in need of technical skills relating specifically to their own sectors. Some skills requirements even relate specifically to their own company thanks to the high proportion of micro businesses that exist within the local economy.

“They also said that young people recruited straight from education tend to lack motivation and a positive attitude. The college is already addressing this by focusing on core employability skills as part of its full-time study programme. It is also vital that businesses collaborate with colleges to offer work placements that enable students to better understand the expectations they will face when they join the workforce.

“We will be considering what we learned through these invaluable discussions to put us in a better position to respond to the needs of local businesses.”

Northampton College is one of the largest general further education colleges in the region with over 9,000 students and a turnover of over £28 million.