Skills strategy must be translated into practice

first_img Comments are closed. Skills strategy must be translated into practiceOn 22 Jul 2003 in Personnel Today Employers have welcomed government moves to address serious skillsshortages. But they want the proposals to be rapidly turned into solutions, tohelp boost the UK’s levels of productivity and competitiveness. Michael MillarreportsProposals outlined in the Government’s Skills Strategy White Paper, designedto equip the UK’s workforce with the right skills and boost competitiveness,have received conditional backing from employers. The paper, 21st Century Skills: Realising Our Potential – Individuals,Employers, Nation, forms part of the Government’s attempt to combat skillsshortages and increase productivity levels to help it match major competitors. To date, productivity under Labour has actually dropped. In 2001, output perhour worked was 25 per cent higher in Germany than in the UK, and 26 and 32 percent higher in the US and France respectively. Employer involvement An estimated 7.3 million adults in the UK – 30 per cent of the workingpopulation – do not have a Level two (equivalent to five GCSEs) or a comparablequalification. Almost half the unemployed people in Britain lack any formal qualificationsat all. To try and address these problems, Education minister Ivan Lewis, outlined araft of proposals earlier this month to improve skills. These include plans toensure greater employer involvement in the design and delivery of Modern Apprenticeships,and to lift the age cap so people aged over 25 can learn skilled trades. He also revealed a proposal to improve and expand the basic skills campaignto make Information Communication Technology (ICT) the third essential ‘skillfor life’ alongside numeracy and literacy. The Government wants to improveopportunities for adults to gain qualifications in technician, higher craft andtrade skills where regional or sector skills shortages exist. Another proposal is to boost adult learning by providing £30 weekly grantsfor those studying full-time in further education. The Skills Strategy willalso attempt to reform adult education and careers information services andmake educational qualifications more employer-friendly and relevant. Underpinning the proposals is the Government’s intention to rapidly expandthe network of Skills Sector Councils (SSC), designed to help employers inassociated industries address skills shortages in a holistic and co-ordinatedmanner. Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK, the SSC set up to help employers in ICTaddress skills shortages, welcomed the Government’s plan to put increasedemphasis on ICT education. She claims IT is the literacy of the 21st century,but that the UK is not exploiting new technology due to shortages in the skillsbase. Price believes providing people with IT skills will also help their literacyand numeracy, with individuals learning basic skills online if “it meansthey can save their pride by saying they are on an IT course rather than areading course”. Furthermore, she advocates the use of ‘e-skills passports’, which allowindividuals to assess the skills they have or need against profiles for jobs,which are preset by employers. The importance of improved ICT skills was also underlined by BarbaraGreenway, managing director of Parity Training, the UK’s second-largestsupplier of IT training. She said providing additional ICT training wasimperative if employability was to be maintained in Britain and that thetop-down focus from the Government on the issue would make supplying facilitiesand accessibility much easier. Adult apprentices The Government’s plan to lift the age cap for Modern Apprenticeships (MAs)so people over 25 can learn skilled trades has been greeted with enthusiasm,particularly among the beleaguered manufacturing industry. Sean McIlveen, executive director of employee affairs at car manufacturerFord, said this would allow continual professional progress in the sector andprovide ‘development for all’. Ford has taken on adult apprentices for the past10 years and has seen substantial benefits. The director of learning and development at Rolls-Royce, Margaret Gildear,highlighted the importance of SEMTA – the SSC covering science, engineering andmanufacturing technologies – in providing guidance for smaller companies whichlack the strong leadership necessary to make the most of the opportunitiesoffered by MAs. Mike Sanderson, CEO at SEMTA, agrees removing the age limit offers a realopportunity to upskill and reskill staff. However, he expressed doubts aboutthe importance the Government would place on the development of MAs in thefuture. “The plan is resource-constrained and I believe Charles Clarke’spolitical survival lies in more traditional education,” he said. The Government’s pledge to make qualifications more employer-friendly andresponsive to business needs is long overdue says Victoria Gill, skills adviserat the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. This will be achievedthrough an increased emphasis on vocational qualifications, and by helpingemployers package units of training to form the training programme that bestmeets their needs. “This plan will enhance the motivation to learn and for employers toimprove their workforce,” she said. McIlveen is optimistic that the skills strategy will help increasevocational education’s standing. “We seem to struggle in the UK to seevocational qualifications in as good a light as academic qualifications,”he said. Employers were united in praising the Government for instigating a positiveset of measures to combat the problem. However, they stress the onus is now onthe Government to ensure its skills strategy is translated from a document ofproposals into pragmatic and workable solutions that equip the workforce withthe skills businesses need. Key reformsDelivering the right skills for individuals– Introducing free learning to any adult without a goodfoundation of skills for employability, to help them achieve a full Level twoqualification (five GCSEs or equivalent)– New opportunities for adults to gain qualifications intechnician, higher craft and trade skills through a Level three qualification(two A-levels or equivalent) in regional or sector skills shortage areas– Funding a new £30 weekly grant for adult learners in prioritygroups to support them in studying full-time courses in further education– Expanding the Adult Basic Skills campaign to make informationand communications technology the third essential ‘skill for life’ alongside numeracyand literacy– Lifting the age cap for Modern Apprenticeships so that peopleover 25 can learn skilled trades– Reforming adult information, advice and guidance services tohelp adults into learning, and ensure individuals can find out what to learn,where to learn and what they are entitled toDelivering the right skills for employers– Rapidly expanding the Sector Skills Council (SSC) network toidentify, map and meet key skills needs in employment sectors. The Departmentof Trade and Industry and the Department for Education and Skills will team upto help drive the SSCs– Learning from employer training pilots as a basis fordeveloping a national programme for employers to deliver training in the waythey want it, particularly for low-skilled employees– Reforming qualifications to make them more employer-friendlyand responsive to employer needs, by helping employers to package trainingunits in different areas to form the training programme that best fits theirneeds– Ensuring greater employer involvement in the design anddelivery of Modern Apprenticeships– Developing business support services so employers know who toturn to for help on skills– Publishing an employers’ guide to good training practice, bringing togetherclear information on everything employers need to know to improve the skills oftheir workforce– Introducing a new people management and leadership drive,working with Investors in People Related posts:No related photos. 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