Managers and senior HR professionals were told last week that there is still more to do to get the UK working, with investment in training and apprenticeships crucial both to boosting the economy and business success.
Delegates at ‘Getting the UK Working’, a conference run by Middlesex University and the CBI, heard that there was still too much talent remaining untapped, particularly amongst young people, but that the business world could play their part in nurturing these skills.
Keynote speaker Jim Bligh, CBI principal policy advisor, warned business leaders that the UK has a ‘broken talent pipeline’ with many people lacking the skills to succeed in the workplace. He said: “We know there’s a skills shortage but I don’t think there’s a lack of work ethic amongst our young people. After 11 years of school people leave and they are not job ready. What a waste of talent.”
This week the CBI published report containing a range of recommendations on jobs and skills and Jim Bligh passed on its vital messages for businesses. “Business needs to provide better work experience and inspire people’s passion, showing young people that success is linked with effort and teamwork. We want to see school teachers spend time with businesses and businesses spend time in schools. Whether your company is big or small there’s more you can do. There are around 40,000 school governor posts available so become a school governor for a local school and they will gain from your business expertise.”
The benefits of investment in work based training was also on the agenda and Colin Kemp, Network Director for Halifax explained how the Bank has seen a boost to business performance and “astonishing” staff feedback since starting a programme that has seen hundreds of Halifax managers taking part in work based learning projects, linking on the job projects to recognised University qualifications.
“Businesses fundamental dilemma is that we are increasingly constrained by cost. How do you balance training your workforce, helping the economy recover and the needs of shareholders?”
“The reason we have done this (work based learning) is that there are quantitative benefits, but there are also soft benefits. I recently saw 80 of my managers at their university graduation ceremony and the pride they felt was a benefit you don’t see on the balance sheet.”
Colin Kemp explained that linking external recognised qualifications to in house training had been key to getting a high level of staff buy in, but the benefits had been seen far and wide across the organisation: “As businesses we often say our staff are our competitive advantage but many organisations don’t have a plan in place that backs this up. We worry a lot about staff turnover as recruitment costs are huge and we want staff to stay and develop. Emotionally engaging staff with the organisation is a crucial part of what we’re doing.”
“Work based learning isn’t about me giving my staff a certificate with my signature on it, this is a degree, a real qualification and that really counts. This is a great opportunity for many organisations.”
Commenting on the conference, Jonathan Garnett, Dean of Middlesex University’s Institute for Work Based Learning said: “The message to business came across loud and clear from every speaker. Invest in work experience, invest in quality work based training for your staff and invest in apprenticeships and you are not just gaining soft intangible benefits or being community spirited, you’re having a positive impact on the bottom line. This is backed up by our research which shows that workers feel far more valued and loyal if they are provided with proper accredited training at work. With the costs to students rising and opportunities to engage in skills training and education often seen as dwindling, businesses that offer these opportunities will reap the rewards.”
Alongside Jim Bligh and Colin Kemp, other speakers at ‘Getting the UK Working’ included Paul Mackie, Chairman of RP&P and Jon Thorn, Employee Services Director from the National Apprenticeship Service.
The conference took place on 2 November at the CBI’s conference centre in central London. Delegates included policy makers, business directors and senior HR professionals. The conference was set up to inform business leaders of the latest developments in skills and learning and examine ways of dealing with the employment and skills mismatch.