Close the Skills Gap

London businesses are struggling to recruit workers with the skills they need. Access to a diverse, skilled workforce is essential for London to function as a leading global city. Whilst the long term solution to closing the UK's skills gap must include upskilling the resident labour force, London businesses must also have access to overseas workers with the skills their businesses need to grow and succeed.

The new Mayor of London should:

Secure primary commissioning control over the Skills Funding Agency's budget in London to enable the provision of demand-led training

Government must respond to businesses' call to improve ready-to-work skills amongst young people and school leavers, and make high level skills, rather than qualifications, the destination of education. Targeted investment in training is key to ensuring that the most acute skills shortages are addressed. Securing primary commissioning power over the skills budget in London would help enable the next Mayor to work with businesses, schools and colleges to shape provision to meet local need.

Explore the potential for a dedicated ‘Capital Work Permits system’ to provide controlled access for future migrant workers and meet London employers’ need for skilled labour and maintain a separate ‘Shortage Occupation List for London’ (as Scotland has)

Without sufficient skills in the domestic labour force, businesses are looking overseas to plug skills gaps. LCCI's 2015 report, Worlds Apart, found that London businesses report difficulty in recruiting employees not only with subject-specific abilities, such as the ability to speak a foreign language, but also soft skills and relevant work experience. Small businesses and start-ups looking overseas to find the skilled workers can, however, lack the resources and experience necessary to easily navigate the visa system. The next Mayor should lobby central government to establish a third party sponsorship route, which would enable business groups to hold a Certificate of Sponsorship to support small businesses by sponsoring non-EEA worker visas on their behalf.

Optimise the London Ambitions Careers Offer to equip every young person with quality and unbiased careers advice from School Year 7

Ensuring the next generation has access to quality careers guidance is key to ensuring that London is able to tackle its most severe skills shortages. Young people should be aware of the opportunities open to them within different industries and teachers and careers advice providers should promote the benefits of training, such as apprenticeships, which have a direct route into work. Encouraging young people to engage with key industries, such as construction, manufacturing and freight - which can suffer from outdated reputations - will help enable businesses to make the most of the skills and potential of the UK's future workforce.

Encourage local authorities to share skills by developing more flexible definitions of 'local labour' when setting S106 requirements and enable apprentices to move across borough boundaries

LCCI's 2014 Skills to Build report concluded that the delivery of vital infrastructure projects, necessary for catering for London's rapidly growing population, is being hampered by the lack of workers with the right skills. Construction apprentices have a central part to play in closing the skills gap in the sector. However, to ensure that their skills are not wasted, the next Mayor should work with councils to enable apprentices to move across boroughs to complete their training once projects have come to an end.