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Worker skills shortage hampering the district's economy, New Forest District Council report claims

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A SKILLS shortage is holding back the New Forest’s economic performance, a report has revealed.

An under-representation of high-growth businesses in the area and an ageing population are also factors in the Forest’s struggles.

Locally, more than 22,700 adults were classed as "economically inactive", which equates to 23.5% of those aged 16-64 – higher than the south-east average (19.6%) and the UK (21.6%).

Many New Forest hospitality businesses have been unable to fill staff vacancies
Many New Forest hospitality businesses have been unable to fill staff vacancies

The group includes people within the age bracket who are unemployed as well as those who are studying, retired or otherwise not working.

The situation was laid out in a report to New Forest District Council's corporate affairs and local economy overview and scrutiny panel committee

It warned the Forest’s overall growth did not reflect its economy being one of the largest in Hampshire.

"An ageing workforce, an underrepresentation of high-value-added sectors and a high proportion of unskilled residents are all limiting factors," it said.

"The New Forest suffers from a skills deficit at the higher end, with only 38% of those aged 16-64 having degree level or higher qualifications compared to approximately 44% in the comparator areas.

"In addition to ensuring that high-growth businesses are provided with a suitably skilled workforce, there is also the need to provide support to lower skilled jobs."

To add value to the economy through higher value jobs and high growth businesses, there was "first the need to ensure that the local workforce is adequately skilled to facilitate this", it continued.

To address the problems, the report said, NFDC was working with partners to ensure businesses and entrepreneurs had access to targeted support, funding and advice.

It was also developing initiatives to ensure the residents have the necessary skills and young people see career opportunities, such as the recent launch of a Central and West Hampshire Youth Employment Hub.

The average weekly wage of a New Forest full-time worker in 2020 was £599.90, compared to the UK average of £587.10 and the south-east figure of £631.80.

The report outlined how the New Forest has a resident worker population close to 84,000 and a total workplace population, those in jobs within the district, of 76,000.

It added: "The main economically inactive groups are students, people looking after family and home, long-term sick and disabled, temporarily sick and disabled, retired people and ‘discouraged’ workers."

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