Need for green know-how soars but finance expertise 'will falter'

26th March 2010 at 00:00
Environment roles are booming, says skills body, while more traditional job markets are likely to decline

Conservation and the environment have generated the fastest growth in jobs, according to a report intended to identify Britain's skills and training needs.

Since 2001, the number of conservation workers and environmental protection officers, usually requiring level 4 qualifications, has more than doubled, according to the first skills audit by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

The audit aims to be an ongoing attempt to quantify Britain's expertise needs and predict future trends. It was commissioned by the Westminster Government. While it applies to England only, the commission believes the analysis holds true for the rest of the UK.

It found that paramedics, legal assistants, refuse and recycling workers, and leisure and theme park attendants had doubled in number over the same period.

But electrical product or vehicle assemblers, typists, bookbinders and credit agents had seen large falls in the number of jobs, of between 58 and 69 per cent.

The commission found that England was increasing the skills of its workforce faster than ever, and its skills gap was about average compared with other advanced industrial nations. But it said the demand for high skills was not rising as quickly as in other countries, with supply growing six times faster than demand.

Urging employers to make use of higher skills was one priority, along with ensuring skills supply was targeted on areas of economic growth.

Chris Humphries, chief executive of UKCES, said: "Despite having a more skilled workforce than at any time in our history, we still lag behind many of our major economic competitors . To catch up, skills investment needs to connect more to the jobs that need doing now and that will need doing in the future."

Using economic models to predict future growth, the report's projections indicated that agriculture and engineering would both lose more than 100,000 jobs over the 10 years from 2007 to 2017.

The findings challenge government efforts to encourage engineering as a career, although the report's co-author Lesley Giles suggested high- skilled engineers could still be valuable to the economy, even as numbers fell.

Health and social work, hotels and catering and retail distribution were expected to be the big growth industries.

The commission predicted that financial services would decline in importance for the UK. The industry is now ranked first for economic importance but the commission predicted it would fall to fifth place.

Replacing it will be telecommunications, computing, business services and renting and real estate, according to the commission's economic modelling.

In Scotland, government officials are working on a "refreshed" skills strategy, in readiness for a special summit this spring. As well as workforce development, it is expected to focus on how to create more "ambitious, innovative and successful" business leaders and managers.

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