TWO-thirds of those companies which currently run apprenticeship schemes plan to give more young people in the South West an opportunity to take their first steps into the job market.

The 2014 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, which had 291 respondents, 98 of which have employees in the South West, found that firms in the region have a growing need for higher skills - with 80% expecting demand to increase in the next three to five years.

However, 62% of companies said they were not confident they will be able to access enough highly skilled workers to meet their needs.

69% of firms in the South West which already run apprenticeships plan to increase them in the years ahead.

But too many are still reluctant to get involved. Our survey identified reforms which would make firms more likely to take on apprentices.

These include: creating programmes that are more relevant to business needs (42%); cutting red tape (32%) and routing Government grants directly to employers (37%).

Deborah Waddell, CBI South West regional director, said: “It’s increasingly clear that the South West faces a shortage in skilled technicians in the years ahead, if we fail to create more chances for young people leaving education and for existing workers.

“Apprenticeships can help benefit the local economy but also tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.

“The South West has been a driving force in the UK’s economic recovery and if we are to build on this, we need a highly skilled workforce to meet growing demand from local firms.

“But we need even more companies to get involved and the Government can help by cutting more red tape, ensuring the apprenticeship system is truly based on the needs of firms and giving business real purchasing power by putting funding directly in the hands of employers on the ground.”

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK and Core Markets, said: “Everyone agrees that all our young people should be better supported as they prepare for the workplace – business leaders in the South West are echoing the voices of teachers, Ministers and indeed young people themselves in calling for a more joined up approach to the transition from education to employment.

“The challenge now is to grasp the nettle so we bring employment and education opportunities together to meet the urgent social and economic need of creating a more highly-skilled workforce in the South West and across the UK.”

You can download the full CBI/Pearson Education & Skills survey 2014 here