Skills festival aiming to prepare next generation for the working world

PUBLISHED: 08:19 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:15 08 March 2018

Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival
: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018

Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival : Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

Archant 2017

Filling gaps in the workforce left by retirees and keeping skills in the region were highlighted as two of the key aims of a skills fair.

Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival : Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival : Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

The two-day Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival, which concludes today, will bring a total of 100 employers and 5,000 visitors from across the county to the Norfolk Showground.

As the pace of technology development continues to grow the skillsets required are changing for many sectors, meaning a change to education and jobs.

Festival director Mark Nicholas said: “The festival is all about inspiration and aspiration. We are providing inspiration by drawing together hundreds of employers to foster that spirit of aspiration so youngsters can engage directly with them and find out about the fantastic opportunities that are out there in the region.”

Easton and Otley College spokesman John Nice said: “This is very much a celebration of the varied career and training opportunities that are available to young people in Norfolk and beyond.

Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival
: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Norfolk Skills and Careers Festival : Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

“Industry and education have united to make this happen and from our point of view, it’s great to be amongst the 100 or so businesses, showcasing the industries that we represent to thousands of students over two days at the showground.”

There will be 780,000 jobs in Norfolk and Suffolk by 2024 with a net 50,000 new roles created but 310,000 due to retire, according to Skills Reach, which is working with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to develop sector skills plans.

A key change the region must face up to is the types of job available. Skills Reach’s Adam Peacock said there will be an increase of 117,000 jobs requiring above level three qualifications by 2024, while 71,000 lower-level roles are set to disappear.

One of the county’s major industries, which has also gone through a technological revolution, is agriculture but Poul Hovesen, farm manager at Salle Farm Estates and farming director at the Holkham Estate, said only 1% of apprenticeships were in the industry, which has an average age of 58. He said: “We lost a generation so we also lost that energy and the output went down.

“We believe that we have to take part in educating people.

“Now we have got a good flow of young people coming in to the industry and have the issue of training people to go into management.”

Maintaining a consistent supply of skilled workers in a boom and bust industry is the reason why Bateman Groundworks has tried to bring through its own staff.

Claire Milligan, production coordinator, said: “The skills shortage goes in waves and in Norfolk with things like the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) coming to an end you see an influx of skills but it is either feast or famine.”

Should I stay or should I go?

While Norfolk is home to many thriving industries and sectors, a fear endures of a “brain drain”, in which the county’s young people leave to pursue careers. We asked some youngsters about their plans.

Easton and Otley College’s Isobel Mary Davis, 16, has her heart set on running a florist’s shop. She said: “I am hoping to move further away; I’m really into travel and can’t really stay in one place for too long so I would like to go further afield and discover what’s out there in the rest of the country.”

Finn McDonnell, 18, is studying at Thorpe St Andrew High School. He said: “I want to do something along the lines of construction, something with my hands. I don’t really want to be in an office. I’d like to stay relatively close as it will be easier with financial priorities.”

Fellow Thorpe St Andrew student Frank Elwick, 17, wants a career in TV or film. He said: “I’m thinking I’ll probably move away as there are a lot more opportunities in this industry away from Norwich.”

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