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Resilience and renewal

Denim, data and developing skills: Lessons from two businesses with stories to share

Author: ICAEW

Published: 17 Oct 2023

Two companies are finding ways to tap into the skills and experience they need for growth.

Not having access to the right skills has frustrated those running UK businesses for well over a generation now. It is not an easy problem to solve but businesses and policymakers and educators must keep trying if we are to build a healthy and resilient economy.

As Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation says in our in-depth analysis. “Labour supply is a critical ingredient of economic growth. The higher quality that labour supply is, and the better directed it is, the better the outcomes will be.”

The causes of these skills problems are many and varied but the UK does face two pressing issues when it comes to skills. First, post-COVID, to attract older workers back into high-value jobs that contribute to economic growth – whether through retraining or new ways to use existing skills. And second, to build a base of new in-demand skills.

As this second film in our series shows, there are entrepreneurs and managers who are finding solutions. In Bristol, software firm Amdaris is creating a new workforce in the tech sector, outside the traditional London and South East heartland. While on Wales’ West coast, Hiut, a high-end jeans maker, has reopened what was Britain’s largest jeans factory until it closed in 2002. This has allowed Hiut to tap into the experienced older workforce that was already there, channelling their skills into new, valuable roles and matching those with newer tech and creative roles.

Both these stories provide lessons for policymakers, business owners and managers and show how it is possible to find solutions. For too long, a shortage of skills has undermined UK economic growth. There are many success stories but they need coherent long-term policies to bear fruit at a national scale. And there are few more worthwhile aims. Creating meaningful jobs for people sparks a kind of magic that allows businesses and local communities to thrive and people to build more fulfilling lives.

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