NTOs need tools to do their job

Letters of the week

• One of the most startling pieces of research to be generated from the
extensive work of the Skills Task Force is the prediction that 80 per cent of
all future jobs in the economy will require a Level 3 qualification.

This presents two clear challenges to government and all those with an
interest in improving the skills base of the country. The first is to equip
individuals with the essential employability skills. The second is to foster a
culture of lifelong learning so that individuals and employers are continually
acquiring the skills that will match up to the challenge of remaining
competitive and at the cutting edge of new technology.

While some industries will respond to change, a far greater focus in terms
of both government’s contribution and that of employers will need to be placed
on workforce development strategies across all sectors. As we move toward the
establishment of the new councils in England and Wales, and separate
arrangements in Scotland, it is important that NTOs – as UK-wide organisations
– are able to fully realise the vision of a "pivotal" role that has
been assigned to them.

This is where we believe government should be doing more. Simply talking up
the role of NTOs will not deliver the marked increase in skills performance
needed unless NTOs are enabled to equip themselves and their sectors with the
tools to succeed.

We have seen from the experience of the gas industry that real skills gaps
and shortages can only be successfully tackled by an active partnership between
employers, unions, individuals and government working to an agreed and shared
agenda. The DfEE and the Gas Industry NTO have been proactive in this area,
devising an innovative transferable training loans proposal that has every
chance of addressing some of the age-old problems associated with the lack of
training, including cash flow and poaching. In April, the NTO National Council
will be convening a special event to look at the broader application of the

Our argument with government over the coming months will be to secure vital
public and private investment in the NTO infrastructure. This is not because we
are keen to divert public money into needless bureaucracy. On the contrary, we
want to ensure that employers really are engaged in the new system, which will
in turn help ensure that the articulation of skills needs are dealt with long
before they become such a problem as to threaten the development of individuals
and businesses in the economy.

Andy Powell

Chief executive

NTO National Council

All measurement counts in HR

• Never before has the adage, "You can’t manage what you don’t
measure" been so true. With so many demands on HR and a feeling that a
more strategic input is required of the function it is easy to lose sight of
the nitty-gritty.

Paul Kearns Comment article (7 March) is timely. His views are reinforced by
more than 300 organisations, both large and small, national and international,
public and private sector which subscribe to our HR benchmarker service. The
starting point for this is to measure the inputs to HR in terms of who does
what and at what cost.

So there are moves afoot to prove and improve the business focus and
effectiveness of HR. Contrary to Paul’s views, however, we at MCG believe we
have learned from both the precision that accountants seek to bring to business
and from marketing and sales specialists who research customer requirements
before shaping their products and services to match customer needs.

Derek A Burn


MCG Consulting Group

Anyone interested in measurement?

• I read the article by Paul Kearns (7 March) with interest. I do not claim
to be up to the challenge of measuring performance in the way he is suggesting.
Having said that, it does fit into projects I am looking at here at DHL.

The first project is to evaluate the assessment centres – is predictive
quality improved balanced against those candidates recruited through interview?

The second project is to measure the work of the personnel department.
Looking at Paul’s article, perhaps we are about to measure the wrong thing.

I would be interested in networking with others who are looking at these
sort of issues.

Marco Marenda

Senior personnel adviser

DHL, tel: 020-8818 8186

Thoughts on one equality agency

• I sense a degree of frustration from Mike Judge (Comment, 14 March), which
I share. I fully agree with him that a single agency for equal opportunities
would be excellent – and given the choice, as a result of merger, redundancy or
learning and preaching all the rules, I know which option I would take on.

S Mallinson

Personnel manager

J&G Coughtrie

• Regarding Mike Judge’s call for a single equal opportunities agency, this
already exists for Northern Ireland – why not England?

Judith Hewitt

Northern Ireland

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