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Although skills and education policy are devolved, this manifesto deals with challenges that exist across the UK and is designed to assist all governments. The ideas within it can be adapted to fit local, national and regional structures.
There is no quick fix and few easy answers when it comes to increasing the skills of the existing workforce or to transforming the systems that educate and train young people, but Accredited Chambers of Commerce are ideally placed to work with partners at the heart of the solution. The Chamber Network has unrivalled experience of working in partnership with local educational institutions, supporting employers to invest in the skills they need, and delivering welfare-to-work and enterprise programmes.
Last year (2013), Chambers ran 2,719 courses for 20,110 participants, delivered 3,476 apprenticeships and brokered a further 868. Most Chambers work with local schools, colleges and training providers, and many deliver employment programmes, such as the Work Programme.
This manifesto seeks to break the cycle of different organisations and sectors blaming each other, and instead identifies solutions.
The two most urgent priorities for governments across the United Kingdom should be:
• Careers education, starting in primary school, including the development of ‘employability’ skills and quality employer contact;
• Helping SMEs to invest in apprenticeships and workplace training, using Chambers of Commerce and other local bodies to encourage and support companies’ aspirations.
Preparing young people for work
Employers understand the business case for recruiting young people, but often struggle to identify individuals with the skills and attitude required in the workplace.
To prepare young people for their adult lives, schools must combine their focus on academic rigour with strong vocational training opportunities and better preparation of all young people for the realities of work.
This will require coordinated interaction with employers.
Training for the workplace – more powers to the employers
Employers are often unable to translate between the skills needs of their business and the training available for purchase.
Those that do understand what they need and what is being offered often discover that there is a mismatch.
Training providers and FE colleges have adopted an advisory role in order to sustain the market for their services, and without them doing this fewer employers would invest in formal training.
However, the system of central contracts attached to government funding means that for-profit providers in particular are often unable to act as impartial advisers, and instead find incentives to provide ‘popular’ training courses.
Making the unemployed attractive for business
Employment policy led by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) remains too focused on welfare claimants rather than demand from employers.
Many employers actively avoid government employment schemes due to previous bad experiences and confusion about what support is currently available, and often do not view Jobcentre Plus as a route to recruit talented staff.
Invest in the future
Chambers will continue to support firms to find the right training by the right provider.
We will build on our existing partnerships at local, regional and national levels to implement local sustainable solutions that deliver better preparation for young people, and adult skills training that meets employers’ business needs.
To view the full BCC Skills and Employment Manifesto click here
Northamptonshire Chamber fully supports this campaign.