Related posts:No related photos. Employers await skills strategyOn 8 Jul 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article TheGovernment’s skills strategy is due to be published this week. But what areemployers expecting and what is its likely impact? Ben Willmott and Ross WighamreportTheGovernment’s long-awaited skills strategy is due to be published later thisweek, containing a raft of proposals aimed at meeting skills shortages throughimproved links between business and education and training providers.Thestrategy likely to be unveiled by the Secretary of State for Education andSkills, Charles Clarke, is expected to ensure that regional and sector skillsshortages have a greater influence on the type of education and trainingavailable to young people.Anotherkey strand of the strategy is likely to be more targeted support forlow-skilled adults, helping to engage them in education and training byproviding higher-quality advice and learning programmes that meet their needsmore effectively.Plansto provide higher-quality and more coherent education and training for youngpeople on Modern Apprenticeships and those studying vocational and occupationalcourses, are also set to feature in the strategy.PersonnelToday asked a number of employers in different sectors what skills shortagesthey face, and what they are hoping the skills strategy will include.EngineeringShirleyWoolley, HR director for precision engineering firm Frederick Woolley, said shewould welcome any initiatives by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES)to make education and training more relevant to local business needs.Woolleybelieves the DTI has already helped the manufacturing sector address skillsneeds by setting up the Manufacturing Advisory Service and the new ScienceEngineering Manufacturing Technology Alliance Skills Council (Semta).Shepraised what she identifies as increased co-ordination between the DTI andDfES; for example, in setting up the Science and Engineering Ambassadorsnetwork to improve the promotion of the manufacturing sector within schools. Woolleysaid there was a particular shortage of apprentices with craft and technicalskills. To address this, employers need more support to help find the righttraining providers to deliver work-based training.Shecalled for more work-based GCSEs, such as engineering, which was introducedinto the national curriculum in September last year. “The underlyingissue, that as a business you are only as good as your staff, will never goaway,” she warned.LeisureRosBarker, HR director at Ladbrokes, said her industry suffers from a lack ofpeople with customer service skills, and believes there is still a need toimprove the basic literacy and numeracy of school leavers.”Thereis a problem with basic writing, spelling, punctuation and comprehension, whichI think is partly a spin-off from an over-dependence on technology,” shesaid.Barkeralso believes there needs to be a better balance between vocational andacademic qualifications in schools.Sheis optimistic that a Sector Skills Council (SSC) she is involved in helping toestablish, which will represent the leisure, hospitality and touristindustries, will provide increased funding and help create a more joined-upapproach to meeting skills shortages.CateringGarryHawkes, non-executive chairman at Aramark, which provides catering vending,cleaning and refreshment services, agrees there is currently too much emphasison academic qualifications and not enough vocational training available foryoung people aged 14 to 16.”Thereis a real need for some children between 14 and 16 to benefit from an effectiveday-release programme that allows them to work in industry and get enthused byit,” he said.”Thiswould also require committed employers – not exploiting young people but givingthem real and effective training.”Atthe moment, we have a system that confirms people’s failure at an early age,whereas what we need is a system that confirms people’s potential,” hesaid.Hawkes,chairman of the Basic Skills Agency, is hopeful the SSCs will provide a moreholistic solution to meeting skills.However,he is concerned that some councils will not have enough sector-specific focusbecause they represent too wide a range of industries.Pubsand restaurantsJohnBrackenbury, deputy chairman of Pubmaster, said skills shortages in his sectorwere damaging employers’ ability to live up to the required quality ofstandards. “The skills shortages go right across the board, but the sectoris especially short on chefs. The catering and leisure industry is short ofabout 50,000 qualified chefs,” he added.Hesaid the problems were partly due to the tight labour market, but he alsoblamed the Government for failing to put money in the right areas.”Theemphasis is on the wrong area. I want to see some tangible support foremployers so we can work in partnership to raise skills,” he said. Hehopes the skills strategy will enable employers to work with the SSCs todevelop better training and more of a career path in the industry.ManufacturingMargaretGildear, director of learning and development at Rolls-Royce, is hoping theskills strategy will place more emphasis and resources on the ModernApprenticeship system. Shesaid the more employer-led SSCs were a step in the right direction, but wantsthem to have more spending autonomy.”TheSSCs should have a role in funding so projects that will really improve theeconomy are backed,” she said.Gildearalso called for more industry-focused, vocational qualifications and foundationdegrees that could feed into national education targets.”Wewant foundation degrees for people of any age that could be completed whilestill at work. We’re hoping targets for national education can be integratedinto the workforce,” she added.MediaTheBBC’s head of training, Nigel Paine, wants clarification on the trainingresponsibility for freelance staff, and hopes the White Paper will foster aculture of lifelong learning and employability. “We need more help on therole of employers in training these staff and how we can best influencethat,” he said.Healso praised SSCs for unifying employers and giving them a single voice ontraining. Painesaid it was crucial that training keeps step with advances in new technologybecause of the rapid rate of changes in the sector.Hehopes the strategy will also draw closer links between higher education andvocational training, with a co-ordinated approach to knowledge and to find out How organisations aretackling the skills gap read more