Evolving workplaces need a greater focus on training

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The skills needed to succeed have changed dramatically over the last 20 years – and will no doubt continue to do so

Recent technical training reforms, from the introduction of the apprenticeship levy to the impending implementation of T-Levels, have brought skills education back to the top of the agenda. And with budgets – and control – now firmly in the hands of employers there’s a huge opportunity to be grasped in designing and delivering bespoke training programmes to meet individual business needs.

A looming skills shortage

In the UK economic and political uncertainty have paved a rocky road for employers. And now we're facing an impending skills crisis. As access to international talent tightens, we are going to see talent pipelines constrict in varying degrees across different sectors and regions of the UK.

Admittedly, tackling all of this comes down to a number of factors. But training and development have a critical role to play. Employers who are able to channel budgets and efforts into upskilling and reskilling their workforce will ensure they have the personnel in place to succeed for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years.

Using training to address the challenge

We know that the most successful businesses are those that invest in continual professional development for employees at all levels. Any workforce needs to be fit for the times; the skills they needed yesterday aren’t necessarily those that will work today. It’s a case of constant evolution.

During times of austerity training budgets are often the first thing employers will cut. But with access to labour declining cultivating home-grown talent is increasingly growing in importance.

In recognition of this we created the Princess Royal Training Awards to raise awareness of businesses in the UK making an outstanding contribution to learning and development within their organisations. Over the last two years we have seen firsthand the impact bespoke, innovative training programmes can have not only on staff development but on business performance too.

Putting training to the test

The businesses we have recognised through these awards know how important training is for future-proofing their workforce. Research we carried out among recent Princess Royal Training Award winners highlighted that 84% of respondents say they’re having to adapt their training to meet the demands of customers and their businesses.

The Energus nuclear graduates programme was established in 2007 with the aim of recruiting and training a new generation of exceptional graduates. Twelve leading industry organisations sponsor the scheme, which lasts two years with interspersed training courses and secondments. The programme is under constant review to ensure it’s fit for purpose. This type of approach could work for employers in every sector.

And its not just training new hires that is important for the success of British business. In a constantly-changing world reskilling existing employees is becoming more important. Barclays made the commitment to train its staff to become ‘the most digitally-savvy workforce in the UK’. It appointed local digital experts who were tasked with championing digital skills education in the workforce. The bank also created its own online learning course, designed to boost employee competence in digitisation as well as teach staff about topics such as cyber security and coding. Now more than a third of Barclays’ national workforce has been digitally upskilled.

We already know that 2018 is going to be a tough year – it’s one characterised by change and uncertainty. If we’re going to overcome the growing skills gaps and re-build strength in both UK PLC and our workforce, training is the first step along this road. Businesses need to ring-fence training and development budgets, and invest in upskilling and reskilling staff. With such turmoil on our doorstep there’s a clear imperative to start that journey now.

Chris Jones is chief executive of the City & Guilds Group

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