And so to Beds

Bedfordshire-based Cranfield School of Management is to provide virtually free management training to local businesses.

It will run the four-day course on behalf of the Bedfordshire and Luton Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in November and plans to run another two next year. The only cost to delegates is paying for overnight accommodation, as the courses will be funded by the local LSC and the European Social Fund.

The course, called The Effective Management Pro-gramme, is for medium and small businesses that need to improve their managerial skills. It will cover marketing, finance and people management.

Cranfield School of Manage-ment co-director David Molian said: “We know from working with the SME sector for almost 20 years that investment in their own management and business skills is not always a top priority, so this programme will help redress the balance.”

Further education views wanted
Training and L&D professionals who have a view on how to improve further education in the UK should contact the Quality Improvement Agency.

It has launched a consultation strategy as part of its campaign to raise standards in the further education (FE) sector. This includes several measures such as: a network of advisers to provide support to colleges and training providers; new measurement tools and materials to help training providers and colleges assess their own performance; and professional development programmes for senior FE staff and management.

FE minister Bill Rammell said: “Students and employers deserve the best from the FE system. And, while there are many excellent colleges and training providers offering first rate education and training for millions, we want to see an end to provision that is below the highest standards.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to the consultation should contact: The closing date for contributions is October 20.

Skills gap shrinks

England’s skills gap has fallen dramatically.

That’s one finding of the National Employer Skills survey 2005, results of which were released recently. It polled 74,500 employers in England and found that those who said they had a skills gap was 16 % compared to 22% in 2003.

And the number of individuals identified by employers as having a skills gap has also fallen from 11% in 2003 to 6% in 2005.

Institute of Directors’ director general Mike Templeman said: “This demonstrates that employers are making a huge commitment to improving skills. Employers obviously play a key role in sustaining and improving our economic competitive advantage and the results indicate that they are passionate about driving their businesses and the wider economy forward.”

The survey, undertaken by the Learning and Skills Council, found employers in England spent more than 33bn on staff training in the past 12 months. Two-thirds funded or arranged training for their workforce during that period and 61% of England’s workforce received some training in the past year.

Welsh skills assembly

Welsh employers recently signed sector skills agreements to help match the supply of education and training in Wales with the demands of the workplace.

The signing ceremony was held at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and attended by employers from six sectors and Welsh government ministers responsible for skills and economic development.

“Employers are not slow to tell us they need people with better skills,” said Jane Davidson, Minister for Education at the Welsh Assembly. “But to meet that need we have to know exactly what skills are required and where. These agreements provide that detail on a sector by sector basis.”

Six sectors are covered: land-based industries; freight logistics; sport and leisure; marine engineering; clothing, footwear and textiles; and health. The agreements mean that employers and the appropriate skills councils will commit to increase and improve skills training for employees.

More such agreements are in the pipeline and, by 2008, about 85% of the workforce in Wales will be covered.

Fear of outsourcing

Fear of outsourcing is haunting training and L&D managers.

That’s one finding of research into measuring return on investment (RoI) in training undertaken by Henley-based learning and development consultancy 3C Associates. It found a fear of being outsourced was a prime motivator among L&D directors to demonstrate the business value of training and learning and development.

Managing director Hedda Bird said: “There is a high level of concern among L&D managers at more established organisations about being outsourced. They worry that L&D will be seen as a commodity to be provided externally.”

3C held in-depth interviews with senior people in L&D in compiling its recently published report Be Valued or be Outsourced. This examined how interviewees were linking training and L&D to their organisations’ business objectives.

“It’s evident,” said the report, “that the process of specifically linking L&D interventions to business performance is still in its infancy.” It added that “many senior professionals do not possess the financial and/or analytical skills to complete this task”.

Only one of the 12 interviewees was able to link management L&D to specific business outcomes. But, said 3C, “few HR directors are putting pressure on L&D to show financial value”.

It believes this is because few HR directors believe it can be done; many see consistent valuation as a waste of time; some fear the full range of HR activities might be subject to similar scrutiny if L&D was measured closely.

Bird also said that a lack of simple measurement software was holding back L&D RoI assessment.

Fall of eastern promise

The UK isn’t making the most of East European migrants’ skills because of their poor English, according to a report from the Learning and Skills Network (LSN).

The London-based not-for-profit body recently researched the learning and skills needs of migrants from EU accession countries, such as Poland and Latvia, who have registered under the Home Office’s worker registration scheme. It said the majority of such migrants are “highly qualified and skilled” but most fail to find suitable work because of their poor English.

“Instead they get caught in the trap of low paid, low skilled and temporary employment.”

Once in a job, said the LSN, migrants from accession countries tend to work shifts and are poorly paid. “This leaves them with little free time to find out about or attend English language classes.

It calls on education bodies and relevant agencies to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

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