Research conducted by West College Scotland has found that the skills gap is the single biggest barrier to business growth in the West of Scotland.

This is one of the main findings of the West of Scotland Skills Survey, the first research of its kind to be conducted by a Scottish college or university. Launched earlier this year, the survey gathered employers’ perspectives on their workforce planning and business needs.

231 organisations, employing a workforce of more than 65,000 people, in and around the region responded to the sector-leading initiative. In doing so, respondents have identified the challenges they face, their priorities for the future and how the College can best support them.

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Participating employers, who ranged from micro businesses to FTSE 100-listed companies, identified workforce planning as the biggest challenge in the year ahead and the skills gap heads the list of barriers to growth.

Launching the Our Workforce, Our Future report, West College Scotland Principal and Chief Executive, Liz Connolly, said:

“We have clear evidence of the challenges posed by the skills gap. 86 per cent of employers reported that it exists in their current workforce and nearly two-thirds identified the digital skills gap as a particular priority.”

West College Scotland, one of the largest colleges in the country, teaches 22,000 students at campuses in Clydebank, Greenock and Paisley. It has an unrivalled reach into the business base of the region – especially among small and medium-sized organisations.

The College will use the unique insight offered by industry to inform its work in futureproofing its curriculum – helping to build a modern workforce.

“Our research findings, combined with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, reinforces the need for educators to be responsive to the needs of our economy and employers,” continued Liz Connolly.

“It also shows the importance of continually upskilling the existing workforce and offering the opportunity to reskill to people looking to take on a new career.

“Employers have told us that workforce planning is the biggest challenge facing them today and the skills gap heads the list of identified barriers to growth. The College can undoubtedly support employers to overcome these formidable challenges.

“When asked what they want from a modern college, employers are unequivocal. They want more engagement, greater collaboration and continued flexibility. We are committed to working with industry and our partners to tackle economic challenges, prepare our students for the world of work and help build a modern workforce for our region.”

Ronnie Quinn, Interim CEO of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, welcomed the Our Workforce, Our Future report, adding:

“SCDI welcomes West College Scotland’s new report and shares its commitment to building a modern workforce.

“Scotland has the opportunity to be a frontrunner nation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensuring we have a skilled workforce, aligned to the demands of the future economy, is vital.

“By working together, colleges and employers can create opportunities for up-skilling and re-skilling that will support current and future workforces, and increase productivity and inclusive economic growth in Scotland.”

Councillor Iain Nicolson, Leader of Renfrewshire Council, commented:

“West College Scotland plays a key role in developing and upskilling the local workforce in Renfrewshire and this report provides important information in ensuring they can continue to meet the needs of employers large and small across the region.

“Renfrewshire has a high youth employment rate and there are thousands more job opportunities coming here in areas such as manufacturing, childcare and the creative and cultural sectors. We have made a long-term commitment to tackle the barriers to employment and support people to gain the training and qualifications they need to succeed.

“By working collaboratively with the local business community and educational partners, we will drive Renfrewshire’s future economic success and make the most of our unique cultural and heritage assets.”