Developing staff skills

Are you having trouble finding staff with the right skills-set for your business? If so, you are not alone. Figures from the British Chamber of Commerce show a 50 per cent increase in the number of employers reporting difficulties recruiting staff with the right skills.

From April this year, employers will be able to have a say in the shape of training courses, enabling them to match the right business skills to their specific needs. The Sectors Skills Agreements (SSA), currently under development, are designed to enable employers and employees to identify skills and productivity needs, the action they will take to meet these, and how they can work with education and training providers so that skills supply can match demand.

The first four of these, the SSA for the IT, audio-visual, construction and engineering industries, are now underway.

Opportunities to learn

‘The aim is to unite employers, Government agencies and training providers on common ground. Employers need to make sure their staff have the relevant training and skills and that they are able to provide them with opportunities to learn,’ explains Karen Price, chief executive of E-Skills UK, the voice for employers of IT.

She adds that employers can expect to benefit from the following:

  • An increasing influence over the education system
  • Opportunities to collaborate with other businesses to ensure as many firms as possible have employees with the right skills-set
  • A reduction in recruitment costs
  • Delivery of targeted training, in association with, for example, universities, which offer ‘bite-sized’ courses that can be arranged around the working day

‘In order for this to work, we need to ensure that we have up-to-date information on employees’ skills’, says Price. ‘We are carrying out monthly surveys amongst employers and people can also register online and have their say.’

Consistent money drainer

Julian Harris, founder and managing director of IT solutions company Smart 421 spends ‘hundreds to thousands a year’ training his staff on systems such as Microsoft and IBM. He is looking to benefit from the Sector Skills Agreement for IT and is also on the board of E-Skills.

‘Getting my staff certified is a constant money drainer, as we always have to stay ahead of the game. Of course these skills won’t be created overnight, or in the next month – it’s a gradual process. It’s such a fundamental shift in education that it is going to take some time for the benefits to come through,’ expains Harris. For Smart 421, the SSA will mark a significant change.

‘I can find Java coders by the hundreds at the moment but when it comes to project managers and business analysts, there is a real shortage in the UK.’

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Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.