From education to employment

Proactively engaging the private sector with education and training

It is a question that often comes to the fore and recently it has been asked once again: Does the private sector invest sufficiently in education and training?

Following a study by the Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning, private industry’s investment in education and training was found to be billions of pounds short of what was originally being claimed.

It was shown that the £39 billion expenditure reported by the private industry factored in the cost of employee’s time, which in reality brought the true direct cost of training down to around £16 billion, compared with the public sector spending which totalled £25 billion.

Whilst these indirect costs are important for a business to manage its accounts and cash flow, it does not really give a true reflection of how much money is being spent on real training that produces benefits to the business through increased knowledge, experience and efficiency.

Employment itself brings new tasks and challenges each day, resulting in a constant learning curve that shapes and broadens the horizons of workers within a business. It is in a business’s best interests to develop and maintain its employees’ skills and train them to its own exacting standards to minimise losses caused through error or inexperience.

Simply by entering the world of work a school leaver does not leave behind their education. A secondary school career should lay the foundations for young people to gain employment or enter further education. It is then down to colleges, training providers and employers to help those individuals enrich their skills and knowledge in order to maximise their potential.

NCFE is fully supportive of the £150 million investment into supporting 50,000 new apprenticeships at small to medium-sized companies, news that was brought to us in the recent cuts announcement from the new Government. This is a positive step forward to getting more people into work that will have a great impact on the future of our economy.

Of course this aim will only come to fruition with the full support of small to medium sized businesses. Employing 44 per cent of the UK workforce, it remains a problem that many of these companies still fail to actively engage with education and training for its employees and new recruits.

Many of the major players in the UK do invest a lot of time and resources into training their individuals, and it is these companies that reap the rewards of using quality, engaging training programmes for their staff and is one of the reasons why they are UK leaders.

However there remains a long-standing complaint from larger companies – the one that stands out from the previous year is Tesco – who openly highlighted the avoidable necessity for them to run basic numeracy and literacy courses and training in workplace skills for some school and college leavers, suggesting that more could be done by the education system.

With recent funding restrictions or lack of resources that many colleges have had to endure, it may be time for FE providers and businesses to work together to share responsibility for ensuring that new recruits are ready for the workplace. Equally, businesses surely have a responsibility to ensure the continuing development of its workforce, meaning investing in continuous, effective training for its older or longer standing employees.

Although provision for adult learning took a severe blow earlier this year, there remains a large proportion of the adult population who remain out of work and eager to learn new skills or build upon their existing experience.

NCFE for example provides numerous qualifications for both colleges and training providers as well as businesses, with tailored courses to suit both the needs of the business and each individual. Our popular Get Set for Work campaign has seen many learners, young and old, get back on track and achieve more in their career, while many education providers are realising the benefits of switching to NCFE NVQs to deliver a quality education to their learners.

Businesses stand to gain a lot from investing more in developing their workforce and we believe it is through the help of organisations like NCFE that we can proactively start to engage more companies and its staff with education and training. The recovering economy’s need for skills has clearly been reflected in the Government’s cuts announcement and it is encouraging to see that the new powers-that-be seem to appreciate what we’ve been saying for years about the importance of a well-skilled workforce to a strong, sustainable economy. By working together with businesses we can train and retrain learners to provide them with qualifications that will set them up for long and prosperous careers that will contribute to getting Britain back on the right track.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

Filling the gaps amid funding cuts

A bit of wishful thinking for stability

Taming the MoG

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