Mersey beats shortfall in local talent

Four major private-sector players on Merseyside have banded together with
local authorities and regeneration agencies to fund a training centre to raise
local skill levels.

Jaguar Cars and pharmaceutical firms GlaxoSmithKline, Evans Vaccines and Eli
Lilly have all agreed to a five-year commitment to purchase £1m of training a
year between them from the Partnership for Learning.

PfL will procure the training from a large database of providers and the
training will take place in its £4.8m state-of-the-art training centre adjacent
to the Jaguar plant in Halewood. Coaching will cover a broad range of technical
and bespoke managerial development.

"Our four major sponsors will take up about 50 to 60 per cent of our
capacity and we will sell the remainder to other local businesses," said
PfL chief executive John Firr. "Any surplus we make will be ploughed back
into providing training for the community.

"The advantage for our sponsors will be economies of scale. We also
take the problems of procuring outside training off their hands, while training
at the centre will provide lots of opportunities for networking and

Sponsors will keep a handle on how PfL develops through its client forum.
This meets once a month and each of the major sponsors has a representative.
They also have their own client managers at the training centre.

GlaxoSmithKline, which employs up to 700 people at its Merseyside factory,
has already signed up for a range of PfL training. This includes public and
customised learning and some training needs analysis for parts of the factory.

PfL’s big advantage is its proximity, said employee development manager,
Jill Harris. "It’s on our doorstep and we don’t have to pay for travel or
overnight accommodation," she said.

There have been unexpected benefits too. "Our staff have been able to
network with people from the other pharmaceutical firms, which are not direct
competitors," Harris said.

PfL is billing itself as a major regeneration project.

"More than 5,000 jobs have been created on Merseyside over the past few
years, but these jobs have not been taken up by local people because they do
not have the skills firms want," Fir said. "PfL’s aim is to find a
way of giving local people and industry the skills they need."

By Lucie Carrington

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