Skills collobarations needed to defy downturn – CBI report

Posted on 21 Jan 2009 by The Manufacturer

Almost half of all UK businesses now have links with further education institutions for vocational training and support, reveals a new report published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) today.

The report, ‘Reaching Further: Workforce development through employer-FE college partnership’, commissioned by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), calls for even closer links between employers and further education (FE) colleges to help firms plug future skills gaps, drive up productivity and improve the prospects of British businesses in the face of the global downturn. Forty-seven per cent of businesses currently utilise such support, the report reveals.

However the report also warns government that training programs need to closely address real skills shortages and not just be initiated for the sake of awarding qualifications.

The report advises that:

• Flexibility to deliver training where and when it is needed is essential for colleges;

• Dialogue with employers must be based on skills needs;

• Continual change in training provision is inevitable so colleges need to be able to adapt;

• Workforce training can help improve business performance and employers should actively engage with colleges to help them understand their requirements, having identified in broad terms the skills they need;

• While employers are interested in skills not qualifications, they should appreciate the value staff place on formal qualifications; and

• Setting objectives at the outset and jointly reviewing results at the end of a programme helps colleges to shape future offerings.

Roger McClure, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, said: “In these challenging times, we firmly believe that the partnership between education and business remains the key to economic success.

“This report shows many examples of where this partnership has worked to the mutual advantage of both parties and how it helps employers become more competitive.”

Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI, added: “The case for greater collaboration between employers and colleges is compelling – being flexible and competitive is even more important for firms during a recession.”

University of Bradford and NTR partnership

One example of successful collaboration through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) is Yorkshire-based tooling specialist NTR Ltd and the University of Bradford. The KTP said the link between the two has been an ‘outstanding success’.

NTR specialises in tool refurbishment and focuses its efforts on automotive, aeronautical and high precision sub-contract manufacturers, with clients across Europe. It has now been working closely with the University of Bradford for seven years.

As part of a two year programme, KTP Associate Adedeji Esan, worked full-time with the team at NTR on a number of step-change projects, supported by a team of academics.

The development of a strategic marketing plan has enabled the company to match its manufacturing investment to areas of future growth and radically realign both its business and quality control processes, whilst exploring the potential for CAD/CAM integration, linking its databases to CNC manufacturing.

The KTP has also helped implement a culture of just-in-time and continuous improvement within NTR and facilitated a complete in-house assessment of employee skills and training needs.

Craig Naylor, NTR managing director, said: “The KTP provided significant financial support to key areas of our business and has allowed us to access the knowledge and expertise of the University of Bradford.

“We recognised that in order to retain (our) leading position and to stay competitive, we needed to adopt a radical manufacturing strategy that embedded technology into the company and also re-engineer our processes and procedures.”

The collaboration is the first through the University of Bradford to be rated as ‘outstanding’ by the KTP.

Dr Khurshid Khan, lean academic at the university, added: “It is satisfying to know that businesses can utilise the knowledge and skills of high calibre graduate associates and their academic supervisors, to enhance their competitive advantage.”