Buckinghamshire County Council cabinet member for education and skills, Zahir Mohammed, writes:

We in Buckinghamshire, are very fortunate to live in a county that consistently outperforms its peers purely on academic performance, yet our strength and capacity on the skills agenda is often overlooked.

For example, a conscious decision was made by Buckinghamshire County Council to expand the skills agenda with the introduction of specialist courses in Construction and IT, in the form of the Bucks University Technical College (UTC) in 2013: an excellent new setting that I had the opportunity to visit recently, centrally located in Aylesbury, to equip young people with the education and high calibre practical skills needed in the future.

Having worked in the Real Estate sector for the past ten years I can testify to the value and long term opportunities that settings like this bring to skills.

Surveys have indicated huge shortages of skills of around 20 per cent in the construction sector – the highest in 18 years - and Britain's technology sector is set to grow by about four times faster than GDP, which is why I’m delighted the UTC has pioneered these specialist courses.

National statistics show that the UK construction industry contributes around £100 billion in economic output making up 6.5 per cent of the total, and around two million jobs or 6.2 per cent of the UK total are in the construction industry.

Construction is not just about bricklaying – there are over 150 different occupations in the industry such as property development, management, quantity surveying, interior design and legal.

On the IT side, it is estimated that by 2017, the UK will need 750,000 digitally skilled people. The forecast for the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley area is for around 2,000 new jobs in this industry.

Many of these will be for people under age 30, in roles such as web development, 'app' development, software development, coding and IT support functions where there is a real shortage of young talent.

The UTC works in partnership with a range of employers in Buckinghamshire - major local companies such as Taylor Wimpey, Cisco, Esri UK and Intel, alongside other providers like the VCS and ‘People Animators’, who support the students with activities to ensure they are ready for the ‘world of work’ – for example, in presentation and communications skills.

With the current rate of growth of housebuilding in Buckinghamshire the tenth highest among 27 county councils and 9th highest in the 39 LEPS, and further growth forecast in Buckinghamshire, these skills will become even more valuable.

Supporting much needed jobs in Buckinghamshire where unemployment rates are already the 3rd lowest amongst 27 county councils, means that future careers in construction and IT should definitely be explored.