SMEs get help with skills gap

A shortage of skilled workers is predicted to cause headaches for UK small and medium-sized businesses, according to research from the Department for Education & Skills. However, help could be at hand from the academic world.

In the survey of SMEs, 84 per cent said 2006 would be made more difficult by a lack of skilled stack to fill recruitment needs, while 74 per cent were concerned about a lack of skills among their existing workers. The vast majority, 85 per cent, believed a combination of work-based experience and academic knowledge was the best preparation for graduates entering the workforce.

To help small businesses with this lack of skills, WestFocus, a Government-funded consortium of seven London universities, has launched Companies & University Talent Industry Training (CUT-IT), a skills-matching service for graduates.

The first project begins in February 2006 and consists of 8-week placements of appropriately-skilled students and graduates with small or medium-sized businesses that are lacking skills in a certain area, to work on specific tasks. For example, creative input for brochures, logos or designing an innovative website that delivers quality leads.

The participating universities are Brunel; Kingston; Roehampton; Royal Holloway, University of London; St George’s University of London; Thames Valley; and University of Westminster. Businesses in sectors relevant to the universities’ strengths will be offered the skills-matching service. Areas of expertise include environmental solutions, social inclusion, health, life sciences, materials and manufacture, IT and the creative industries.

WestFocus’s has a pool of 130,000 undergraduates and postgraduates to choose from and is aiming to visit a thousand companies within 15 months to solve their skills problems. CUT-IT opportunities will be advertised on their website and in university careers offices and companies will select from a shortlist of applicants.

The CUT-IT schemes will start in February and October and will be either be part-time for students to a maximum of 14 hours per week or full-time for graduates up to 12 months after graduating. WestFocus believes this is a safe and relatively risk-free way of obtaining affordable specialist skills, as payment will be a minimum of £7.50 per hour.

Leslie Copeland

Leslie Copeland

Leslie was made Editor for Growth Company Investor magazine in 2000, then headed up the launch of Business XL magazine, and then became Editorial Director in 2007 for the online and print publication portfolio...

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