BBC TV Breakfast Show presenter Steph McGovern says the skills gap is a serious problem for businesses.
She was the keynote speaker at a special event at Runcorn’s Heath Business Technical Park as part of Liverpool’s International Festival for Business programme.
She said that as she travels around the UK, businesses across all sectors are saying there are major concerns about the skills shortage.
Steph said: “All of them are saying they are feeling positive and getting going again, and that’s great news. That’s very optimistic but the big problem is skills. All sectors are worried about skills.”
Steph, who studied science and communication and policy at University College London, was named ‘young engineer for Britain’ at 19 when one of her designs saved her then employer Black & Decker £1 million.
She went on to become a business reporter and presenter with the BBC and has broadcast from more than 500 UK firms.
She has maintained a keen interest in science and engineering.
Steph said that while young people are skilled users of social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, many didn’t have the skills necessary to fill in online application forms.
She said one million people in the north west region don’t know how to use a computer while a third of the businesses in the region do not have websites.
Steph chaired a ‘Question Time’ style debate with a panel consisting of Halton MP Derek Twigg, David Parr, chief executive of Halton Council, Carol Thomas, SOG’s finance director, Graham Jackson, business manager north England operation, Wood Group PSN, Andy Brown, regional director of the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board, Jonathan White, operations eirector for Diageo International and Terry Dray, director of graduate advancement and employer engagement at Liverpool John Moore University.
The debate concluded that more must be done to engage with young people and to encourage them, and particularly girls, that engineering is a career path worth pursuing and that the industry has changed dramatically through technology and is no longer all about dirty hands and oily overalls.
Young people need to be engaged about careers at a much younger age and there is a need for role models to encourage them to choose engineering above other professions.