We predicted at the beginning of this year that skills would be a top priority for businesses in 2007.
Half way through the year, and you only need to count up the number of times that skills stories have reached the front page of Personnel Today to know that skills is indeed one of the hottest issues in HR.
Which is why it’s not a great sign to business that the government may not replace Sir Digby Jones, who has stepped down from his role as skills envoy to take up his new appointment as minister for trade promotion.
Nor is it helpful to have pass-the-buck debates about whose responsibility it is to educate people so they reach basic levels of literacy and numeracy. The Leitch Review said five million adults in the UK had no qualifications. But surely there is an individual and collective responsibility to ensure that the UK can avoid the “bleak future” that Leitch warned us about.
There are several new initiatives to help get that message across.
On the education front, the new secretary of state for schools, Ed Balls, has announced plans to overhaul the secondary education system in England to “focus on getting the basics right”.
And for individuals, there is a new campaign to encourage people to ‘take control’ of their own lives and invest in basic qualifications. Part of that campaign includes TV ads targeted at employers, urging them to review the training needs of their workforce (see page 1).
The campaign may have its critics – many of whom say it is not going far enough. But I hope the ads will make shortsighted employers open their eyes to the realities and possibilities in front of them.
It is far too easy to blame someone else, or expect other people (or businesses) to pick up the pieces. To do otherwise requires a huge change in attitude and a refusal to pass the buck any further.
As change agents in any organisation, this is where HR comes into its own.