Today, I was in the North East, with our fantastic candidate for Aberdeenshire – Christine Jardine. We met with businesses to talk about the problems they’re facing.
Everyone knows that the fall in oil and gas prices has hit the North East hard. But there are other challenges businesses in the area are facing too. One of these is a stubborn skills gap, with businesses unable to find the trained staff they need to grow.
A UK Commission for Employment and Skills survey found that fifth of Scottish employers could find staff with the skills they needed. This is a big problem,
Sir Ian Wood, author of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce had it right when he said:
There is nothing more important to Scotland’s medium term economic future than getting the skills of its young people in tune with the very fast changing skills, technology and knowledge requirements of the modern world.
The situation is urgent. School funding is being slashed by the SNP and 152,000 college places have been lost on their watch. More than 20,000 of these places were in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. That is not the sort of record that will help Scotland's businesses be the best.
Unless we take urgent action now, the situation could be crippling for firms like the ones I met today.
Parents understand we need to make a transformational investment in education to boost our economy. Sir Ian Wood understands it. Teachers and lecturers understand it, and businesses too.
That is why Liberal Democrat plans for a massive £475m a year investment in our nurseries, schools and colleges are so important.
This investment will help close the skills gap and ensure businesses can get the staff they need.