Is the North East facing a “ticking time bomb” due to lack of skilled workers?

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, has warned that the region faces a “ticking time bomb” due to a lack of apprentices, following the release of government figures which showed new apprenticeships fell by about a fifth in two years.

Figures show 30,480 people in the North East started apprenticeships in the 2013-14 academic year, compared to 38,340 in 2011-12.

James Ramsbotham said: “In our engineering industry at the moment there is a real skills gap. We’ve got a ticking time bomb because we’ve got several thousand highly skilled workers in many of those industries who are going to retire over the next few years and we have to replace them.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Our insistence on quality has had an impact on numbers in the short term, but has resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of training. The overall number of apprenticeship starts in the North East has increased by 65% since 2009-10.”