Sweet and sour skills

Posted on 26 Feb 2009 by The Manufacturer

Following a call on last week's newsletter, Tony Salt, training and development manager at confectionary maker Swizzels Matlow, describes the company's current skills initiatives...

We are an organisation with a strong training and development culture and have offered N.V.Q.’s at levels 2 & 3 to our staff since 1994. Our awareness of the N.V.Q. process has been developed through involvement with the Sector Skills Agency, awarding bodies and a variety of training providers (some exceptionally good – some exceptionally bad). I believe the process of work-based learning is a training and development initiative which will make the difference to people’s skills and ultimately to the business bottom line in key point indicators.

However, it is not all plain sailing:

• Everyone trained to the same high standard.
• Verification to national standards.
• Enhanced teamwork.
• Improvement in staff morale
• Opportunity to develop the individual.

• Can be difficult to understand.
• Can be too prescriptive.
• Too much jargon.
• Unnecessary bureaucracy.

I believe that the first point of contact for information should be via a Sector Skills Agency and I have to put on record that Improve, the SSA in the food manufacturing sector is very good at providing support and assistance to business in the sector. However, one problem with the whole system is the “size issue”. Everyone chases targets, including SSA’s which inevitable means that the SME’s suffer. As you are aware, we have addressed this issue with a consortium of food manufactures in the area with a training aim, which gives us more leverage.

I have tried for almost three years to talk to someone at the Learning and Skills Council about the senseless and vast quantities of paperwork involved in the Train to Gain initiative but had no success.

Our experience of N.V.Q.’s and Train to Gain has been good with many business benefits – but that can depend on the Training Provider.

Training Providers are a contentious issue. The current system is working well for some businesses and this should be maintained. However, where an organisation already has a strong training culture it is my belief that employers are best placed to select and conduct training for their staff. In this case a fundamental change is required. The current role of the Training Provider should be changed to offer a service in partnership with employers to facilitate learning in the workplace and verify the learning at each stage. The T.P. role should be shifted to academic institutions as recommended in the Leitch Review but these institutions should undergo their own learning experience in how to work in partnership with employers. We have worked in partnership with an academic institution for four years and have encountered a few obstacles along the way. One fundamental example of this is our endeavour to convince the academic institution (and the Learning and Skills Council) that the world does not end on 31st July each year and restart at the beginning of September!

However, the advantages of working with an academic institution far outweigh the disadvantages and a partnership of like minds with similar aims and objectives can be rewarding for all concerned.