Semta, the manufacturing Sector Skills Council, announced the findings of a £100m, three-year programme to assist employers with finding skilled employees.
Ex-trade union official Baroness Wall of New Barnet hosted Semta and employers at the House of Lords to announce the key conclusions of the Semta Sector Compact.
The Sector Compact was devised to find out what manufacturing employers needed from the national skills delivery mechanism and to correct the flaws in the current system. The Compact’s protocols were agreed in June 2009.
The compact was awarded £100 million in government funding to deliver the Compact and meet the training requirements of the sectors which Semta covers, including science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.
Semta contacted over 20,000 employers in the Compact process.
Alan Cook, chairman of Semta and Atkins, the London 2012 Olympics engineering firm, presented the Compact’s results and thanked the attendees and speakers – which included Jaguar Land Rover, tractor manufacturer CNH UK and forging company W H Tildesley Ltd – for participating in the Compact.
The Compact completed 2,352 training plans for employers. Results show that 86% of the training plans are with SMEs who employ less than 250 people and Semta says the Compact has provided information, advice and guidance to 12,964 employers.
About 80% of the 20,000 Semta has engaged with were tough cases – companies who previously had either not engaged with skills delivery bodies or who had been reluctant to engage fully.
The Compact’s Business 2 Skills (B2S) diagnostic tool was officially launched at the event, a tool intended to be low cost to the employers that enables them to ‘link the achievement of business objectives to investment in skills development’.
Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta, commenting on the B2S tool at the House of Lords, said: “With smaller businesses making up such a huge proportion of the 132,000 employers we support, we designed the B2S diagnostic so that they can explore skills needs and training options quickly and easily and with no initial financial outlay.”
Skills delivery mechanisms in the UK in the last decade have been criticised for failing to provide skills that employers, especially manufacturers, need. Employers are frequently on record saying that local colleges could provide NVQ training in IT and health and safety awareness, for example, but not machine tool operation, engineering maintenance, plastics science and other practical skills they require to run their companies.
Steve Boyd, managing director of G&O Springs, said of the Compact: “Semta helped us to see that if you have a business need, it’s that need that the training should aim to satisfy. They worked with us to develop a bespoke programme to help us achieve our business goals – as a result, efficiencies have improved beyond my expectations.”
Claire Burton, head of the Apprenticeships Unit at BIS and the Department of Education and Skills, said that Semta’s Compact had addressed the dearth of women in engineering and manufacturing careers. Allan Cook said the Compact’s finding’s would provide a clearer route to redressing the balance, where women account for about one in 10 jobs in these companies.
“We recognise that there is talent within the business and we want to equip our female leaders with the right skills to promote themselves within an engineering business,” said Andrea Stallan, an HR consultant at Jaguar Land Rover.
The report’s key conclusions that employers and government need to work harder together to ensure that the right skills are available to support growth and innovation opportunities now and in the future. It identified those skills critical to the low carbon agenda as particularly important.