This first snapshot from our Local Skills Report looks at the strengths of Norfolk and Suffolk’s skills base and the sectors in our economy which have the greatest need.
Labour market shortages are a key challenge for Norfolk and Suffolk. Despite having high employment rates, we don’t have enough people to fill the current vacancies. Coupled with this is the mismatch of the skills required and the available workforce. Shortages are exacerbated in our foundation sectors, including logistics, agri-food, tourism and hospitality, construction and care, as well as some of our potential growth sectors, including ICT and engineering. Tutor shortages in engineering and construction where industry wages are more attractive is impacting on the supply of new entrants into the sectors. Three universities attract ambitious people to the area each year but there is a need to enhance and capitalise on the opportunities to retain the talent.
Accelerating trends in remote working, digitalisation and the requirements to be net zero are changing the nature of jobs at all levels but present significant opportunities for the creation of higher-value roles in all sectors. It is leading to increased demand for technical and digital skills. We are also growing an environmentally positive and resilient economy by exploiting the region’s strengths, driving the adoption of clean technology, enhancing natural capital, reducing waste, accelerating sustainable infrastructure, plus equipping and empowering business and people to take advantage of the opportunities in moving to a zero-carbon economy.
The expansion of the clean energy sector and the emergence of new clean growth opportunities will provide new employment opportunities, offering higher-skilled and better-paid jobs. The average salary for clean growth jobs is 25% higher in Norfolk and Suffolk compared to the economywide average. Partners are committed to addressing the labour market shortage and recognise there is a need to do this through a combination of automation, reskilling and attracting talent to learn and work in Norfolk and Suffolk. Our people, whether in traditional or more niche careers, micro businesses, arts and culture or supporting others in the community, are central to all our ambitions. We want to raise and support aspiration across all ages, unlock private sector investment in the workforce and support providers to respond quickly and in a hands-on way to address the long-term needs of people and businesses.
Norfolk and Suffolk has agreed to use data reflecting the Alternative Claim Count for the unemployed as a timelier proxy indicator for unemployment rates across both counties. According to this analysis, the most recent unemployment rate (August 2021) was hovering around 3.8%. This is down from a peak of 5.6% in May 2020, but still falls short of the unemployment rate pre-pandemic of 2.6%.
The economic consequences of the pandemic, in both the short and longer term, are likely to be disproportionate among the local population. People with the lowest income are most vulnerable, with a significant number of jobs at risk in occupations with relatively lower wages such as retail, tourism and food services, which are forecast to be some of the hardest hit by the economic impacts of the Covid-19 response.
The unemployment impact has varied across sectors, with the accommodation and art and entertainment sectors consistently reflecting much higher rates of furloughed staff. Although overall, there have been significant increases in claimant counts across all age bands, around 30% of employees aged under-25 work in a sector most affected by shutdown, compared with 13% of those aged over-25.
Full details of the scope of future demand across a range of sectors can be found in our Sector Skills Plans. They provide a description and quantitative assessment of both the overall scale and timeline of demand, and also the corresponding projected levels of skills that will be required to support Norfolk and Suffolk’s ambitions.