Be a major player in bridging the skills gap

Will our children be better prepared than we were for working life? The
Government is certainly hoping so with its raft of new initiatives, which add
up to an ambitious new national skills strategy designed to help the next
generation into jobs and to lift productivity (see page 1).

There’s a joined-up approach to linking business with schools. Two sector
skills councils have been created and the centrepiece is a scheme which
compensates employers for giving time off for training.

This Government is determined to improve competitiveness through a skills
impetus and it is rightly expecting 110 per cent co-operation from you.

Employers must be the trailblazers for much of this action. If you know
nothing about the Sector Skills Councils, then it is time you found out how
they can help your organisation and what you can contribute at a national level
by getting involved. The councils exist to reduce skills gaps and increase the
speed of development in particular industries. They will have enormous clout
and should be employer-driven, so there is everything to gain and nothing to
lose by participating and learning from them.

Only a few months ago (25 Feb), Martin Temple, chief executive of the
Engineering Employers’ Federation wrote passionately in this magazine on how
lessons in productivity must be learnt in the classroom. His calls for action
have been answered in the form of a pilot scheme to create enterprise advisers
who bring schools together with local companies to improve skills and
vocational education.

While this offers obvious long-term benefits, it is also a good example of
making corporate social responsibility real for the community in which you

Even in its simplest form, many employers still appear to be dragging their
feet in linking up with schools creatively. It would be good to see more
leadership and altruism in the workplace. How many of you offer quality work
experience to students? Raising young people’s aspirations by giving them a
taste of different working environments has to be a positive step.

Watch this space, as there will be more to come on skills when the
Government’s White Paper is released in June.

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