Apprentices have the skills we need to grow

Published 16th April 2014 at 4:07pm

This month the Chairman is featuring a ‘Guest Blog’ from Nigel Brewster who is LEP Board Member for Skills and Partner at Brewster Pratap Recruitment Consultants.

The speed of technological change in business in the Sheffield City Region is faster than ever – and getting faster. This has a huge impact on the skills our workforce needs to succeed.

I work in the recruitment industry and keeping pace with change is incredibly important for my business. Having a talented workforce that is able to react and deal with change is a crucial part of our ability to adapt and grow. This means making sure they can develop with us, as well as taking on new staff members, who can help us to maintain a competitive edge.

The Sheffield City Region is home to a growing number of highly specialised businesses from across a number of sectors. Our Enterprise Zone is attracting cutting-edge manufacturing and technology businesses – businesses which require highly focused skills and training. World-class companies like Rolls-Royce, Boeing and Firth Rixson, who are already choosing to grow their business here are turning our area into a magnet for ambitious companies from around the world. These high growth businesses are looking for talented people to help them to grow.

Business leaders from all sectors know that whilst it is easy to recruit people, it is incredibly difficult to recruit talent. Recruiting a workforce that will help your business to grow is about getting people with the right skills and the right attitude. The whole process can be incredibly expensive and time consuming.

In the Sheffield City Region, thousands of growing businesses are finding that apprentices can offer a low risk and more effective way to attract new talent and enhance the skills in their business.

As Board Member for Skills on the Local Enterprise Partnership Board (LEP), I have been responsible for helping to develop a scheme called Skills-Made-Easy. This involved asking Government for funding which would enable us to help get more apprentices into businesses that hadn’t had them before.

Through our skills programme we persuaded central Government to hand over £27.4 million from its core skills budget to local leaders. The Government has given the LEP this money to spend locally because we are better able to spend it in a way which is tailored to local business needs. The scheme is specifically aimed at SMEs, who have always found access to these types of schemes difficult and complicated.

Usually, when a business looks for an apprentice, it will work with a single local college or other provider. That college or provider will then do its best to match an apprentice with the right skills for the business. This relies on the college having an apprentice and a training programme that meets the needs of the businesses. Unfortunately, this system can sometimes be confusing for employers with hundreds of providers offering a huge array of training options and courses to choose from.

This is the first crucial way in which the LEP’s programme is different. We’re impartial – business growth is at the heart of our programme and we want businesses to get the right apprentice with the right training package. Our Skills-Made-Easy team works with 45 colleges and training providers from across the Sheffield City Region to broker training and ensure a better match between the availability of training and business needs.

Secondly, our Skills-Made-Easy programme works closely with businesses to help them to recruit an apprentice that enhances their workforce. Our team will work with businesses to create a job description that will get them the skills match they are looking for.

Thirdly, the Skills-Made-Easy programme enables access to the training that local businesses want with lower additional costs to the bottom line. This makes an apprenticeship an extremely good value way to grow our skilled workforce without adding to training and recruitment costs.

As a result of our Skills-Made-Easy programme, the Government can see how local decisions on skills funding are better made at a local level. The Government has set out its intentions to devolve more powers and funding to City Region areas, and last month our Growth Plan sets out what we want from Government to support us in growing our economy.

Through the Growth Plan, which we submitted to Government at the end of March, we are asking Government to invest further £38 million over the next six years to help us to further develop skills in the Sheffield City Region.

This article was originally written for the Yorkshire Post and appeared in print in the Business section on Tuesday 15 April 2014.

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