Skills gaps need to be identified by employers for funding to have impact

The chairman of retailer John Lewis has called on employers to clearly define their skills shortages so they can get the most out of government funding.

Charlie Mayfield, also a commissioner for the new UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said businesses needed to spell out their skills needs so that sector skills councils (SSCs) can offer the right training.

But he said SSCs also had to work harder to hold employers’ interest.

Mayfield told Personnel Today: “One of the challenges is that SSCs want to offer demand-led skills – but businesses need to articulate better what skills needs they have so providers can provide those skills.”

The 25 SSCs were established five years ago to reduce skills gaps by channelling funding appropriately. However, they are currently undergoing relicensing to clarify their roles and to ensure employers receive demand-led skills training, as recommended by the Leitch Review.

“It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario,” said Mayfield. “The skills councils have to work hard to engage employers, and employers, if they’re responsible, need to engage with the SSCs.”

Mayfield, who will be leading the relicensing project, added that there was a “possibility” that SSCs would be closed down if they under-performed. The relicensing project is expected to get under way soon.

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