Skills investment sees record rise

Demand for engineering vocational qualifications rose by record numbers in the first quarter of 2010, according to figures from Semta.

Semta, the Sector Skills Council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, has released new figures on the health of engineering vocational qualifications in the first quarter (1st January – 31st March) of 2010.

The total number of certifications awarded during the first quarter of 2010 was the highest Q1 figure to date, with an increase of 15% against the same time last year. Although Level 1 certifications fell by 13%, Level 2 increased by 16%, with a 21% increase for business-improvement techniques (B-IT). Level 3 certifications were also up 17% on Q1 2009, with increases for high level skills in aeronautical engineering, B-IT, installation and commissioning and engineering technical support.

The total number of registrations for national/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (N/SVQs) for Q1 of 2010 fell by 21% compared to quarter one of 2009; although registrations for 2009 proved exceptionally high, and the current 2010 figure remains higher than any other previous figures for quarter one. While Level 2 registrations also dropped by 27% from Q1 of 2009 they are also at their highest level for any other Q1. Level 3 registrations have remained steady.

According to Semta, the record rises in vocational qualification take up in Q1 2009 demonstrates the continued commitment of engineering employers to invest in their workforces, despite the challenging economic climate. Unsurprisingly, the most popular qualifications during this time were those that can make huge impacts on the bottom line, such as the B-IT NVQ.

Semta's 2010 UK Skills Report identifies the need for almost 10,000 new highly skilled scientists and engineers a year between now and 2016. Semta says it has helped drive up qualification demand through initiatives such as its sector funding compact which has seen training plans created for 1300 companies, supported by £80million from Train to Gain for Semta's sectors. Semta has launched a new Skills Connector service that lets it connect with employers, either face to face or online, in order to improve access to quality training and funding that matches their specific needs.

Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta, said: "We must ensure that every employee can be developed to their full potential as we need a highly skilled and adaptable workforce, particularly to support advanced manufacturing, life sciences, green and emerging technologies. These opportunities are out there for companies who have weathered the downturn, but they need world-class skills to remain competitive.

"Vocational qualifications, such as B-IT, are capable of making the biggest impacts on the bottom line. Businesses working with Semta's National Skills Academy for Manufacturing have seen, on average a 6:1 ratio of return on their investment in skills, helping many of them survive the downturn."

Paul Fanning

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