Dr Philip Hallam, Vice-chancellor and CEO of Arden University, considers how employers need to be at the forefront of leading the UK’s economic regeneration and success.
‘The UK has a long-term productivity problem, made worse by the financial crisis.’ These words, written by the UK Government in 2015, catalogue Britain’s current problem – we do not produce enough young people in the UK with the skills employers need.
The UK Commission on Employment and Skills report highlights the massive shortages in skilled UK workers – six percent of employers had at least one skills shortage vacancy in 2015, up considerably from 4% in 2013. Even when employees have qualifications, they are not meeting the standards required by employers.
The employment landscape is changing – future jobs won’t be for life, they’ll rely on skills and attributes that machines won’t be able to replace and employees will be less job loyal, moving for better pay or better opportunities. According to Deloitte’s global 2016 Millennials Study, one in four millennials is looking to change roles in the next year, rising to 44% if you expand that to two years. 71% of UK millennials do not see themselves with the same employer by 2020.
So how do we produce young people with enough skills to meet employers’ demands and upskill the remaining workforce so productivity stays high, unemployment isn’t exacerbated by increased automation, employers retain talent and Britain remains economically solvent?
The answer is a strategic approach to continual learning.
A business, like the economic outlook, is never static. New technologies create new opportunities, which need new skills. Instead of waiting for the inevitable to happen, employers should develop training programmes to upskill new and current employees, which are in line with business objectives.
Businesses cannot afford to lose their human capital. There will be employers offering better cash, better opportunities and better prospects. Employers will have to ensure that employees see them as the best option for their future.
How can an employer be the best option?
Employers need to consider their business objectives – what do they want to achieve next year, the year after and the year after that?
Then take a look at your employees – what skills do they currently have and what will they need for the future? Also consider whether existing staff can be trained or whether it’s time to recruit new staff (and train them too). Undertaking a skills gap exercise regularly is critical to long term business success.
Communicate with staff; by sharing business objectives, staff feel ownership and responsibility for their and the business’ future. By involving staff, there will be less uncertainty and resistance. This is a good opportunity for staff to register their interest in which business sectors they might like to be trained in.
What kind of training is available?
Training can take many forms, from an informal induction, to a short course, up to a degree or masters.
For some staff, it may be enough to send them on short courses that are subject specific. However when a big change is required (such as developing a new business stream) an undergraduate degree or masters might be a better approach, giving staff in-depth knowledge and your business a competitive advantage.
Won’t training mean less work time?
When you invest in training, you’re investing in your business; and training has time as well as cost implications. Short courses don’t require a huge time investment, but when staff need to undertake in-depth study and research, such as for a Master’s degree, the time required can be significant – juggling learning time with the needs of the business can be hard.
However, there are new forms of learning that are more beneficial to the workplace. Here at Arden we have developed a range of career focussed online and ‘compressed blended’ degrees, which mix online and face-to-face learning at dedicated study centres.
Online and blended degrees have been developed to fit around a learner’s commitments – whether that’s family, work or something else. They can also be more cost effective than a ‘traditional’ degree, with lower fees and staff being able to study whilst they work.
Many of our courses are also accredited by professional bodies including Chartered Institute of Management and Association of Project Management, which means employers and students can be sure the qualifications gained meet rigorous industry standards and will be valued by employers globally.
Successful businesses employ successful training
A successful training programme isn’t fixed, it’s flexible and moves with the needs of both the staff and the business. As skills and opportunities change, the planning of future training requirements changes. But what doesn’t change is your dedication to upskilling your staff, your business and the nation.
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