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Colleges Week: Norfolk's economic recovery needs to be skills-led

16th October 2020

A year ago, Norfolk businesses were working hard to make sure that as Brexit approached they had the right staff with the best skills to help make the transition to a different future – colleges were playing a critical role in making sure that businesses could recruit new employees with the right training and skills, equipped to start work. 

As with everything, Covid has taken the lead as the top concern for businesses. A national survey of SME leaders, conducted by Opinium for the Association of Colleges, shows that more than half (53%) say that COVID-19 is now their key concern. More than two in five (44%) say that the skills gap in their sector is likely to increase because of threats such as COVID-19, and 54% believe that they are going to need to train their workforce to adapt to the opportunities and threats thrown up by the virus. 

The economic recovery has to be skills-led if we are to support the businesses and people of Norfolk through this pandemic. It is only through training and retraining that we will be able to make sure that people have the skills they need to keep their jobs and to apply for new ones, and that businesses have the employees they need. 

We know that skills gaps have not emerged overnight: they are long standing challenges which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the UK nearing the end of the Brexit transition period. Government has expressed its commitment to prioritising skills, but now we need the investment to flow quickly to the right people and places. People and businesses need skills and training as an urgent priority if they are going to survive the coming months, and thrive in the coming years. 

Norfolk is lucky to have a strong and resilient college network and we’re ready to make use of the excellent relationships that we have with businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. We work with hundreds of businesses and with the Local Enterprise Partnership, helping our county to address the problems of today and be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. Together we will find a way through these difficult times. We look forward to the promise of new investment in skills paying dividends for young people leaving school, for anyone who needs to retrain for a change in career, and for businesses facing unprecedented challenges. 

Corrienne Peasgood OBE, Principal, City College Norwich  

Find out more about the vital contribution colleges make to individuals, businesses and communities. Search for #CollegesWeek and #LoveOurColleges on social media.