Why now is the time for training

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With the skills gap still a major issue in workplaces today, a number of recent reports have pointed towards giving employers more involvement in the design of training programmes. It was interesting to be involved in the HR Lunchtime Debate on the day the Richard Review was published.

The review recommended that businesses have a greater say in apprenticeship design, and the CBI welcomed this as a way to ensure government training programmes are more closely aligned with the needs of industry.

The HR Lunchtime Debate survey showed businesses agree, with 56% saying it's very important for employers to be involved in the design of skills programmes. However, recent opportunities to get involved through programmes such as the Employer Ownership Pilots don't appear to have caught on. In this survey, 72% of respondents hadn't heard of the scheme and more than half said they were unlikely to apply.

By taking an active approach and tailoring the learning to suit the context and sector, employers can help equip their staff with the skills their business needs to succeed. The survey showed the abilities businesses felt were most lacking are management and leadership skills, time management and communication skills. These broader, softer skills are important not only for businesses but for individuals. We all need to think creatively about how to develop them.

However, it's also vital we remember the basics like maths and English, because these provide the underpinning knowledge that helps people go on to achieve other things. A worrying 25% of the current workforce lacks the numeracy skills they need, so it's great to see the commitment from the Government and new organisations such as National Numeracy to tackle this problem. A lot of people have been put off by traditional ways of teaching in these subjects. These skills should be developed in the context of the workplace and for this it's got to be developed in partnership with employers.

If employers are able to work together with their delivery partners to create a blended programme of learning which encompasses all these essential skills, the benefits are clear. Staff are more motivated, productivity increases and the business has the opportunity to grow and diversify.

Once the skills gaps are identified and the benefits understood, employers also need to consider how they are going to deliver the learning. Whereas in the past they might have needed to take a more formal and regulated approach to learning, we now live in a digital age and with this comes great chances for employers to tackle it with a more creative and flexible outlook.

We often hear from employers - and this showed in the HR magazine survey results too - that finding the budget and sparing time off for staff to complete learning are barriers for them. But it's now much easier to take learning into the workplace, using technology to provide a seamless link between the employer, the trainer and the learner. And with technology offering businesses the flexibility to really maximise the budget they have available, it can deliver real results in line with the business strategy.

We're now at an interesting time in terms of the opportunities available when individuals, businesses and Government all work together. Working together can enable us to come up with innovative solutions for the skills gaps.

Dereth Wood is group director, adult skills, at learndirect, sponsor of the HR Lunchtime Debate

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