learndirect and Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce discuss skills needs in the region

Roundtable event discusses the skills challenges facing the city region

rountableChaired by the former CEO of the National Apprenticeship Service David Way, the discussion featured representatives from the GMCC’s Employer Skills Group, other employer from the region, the GMCC and learndirect.

The session opened with an update from Louise Timperley, General Manager – Skills and Employment at GMCC – on the progress they had made to date in trying to reduce the skills gap between the north and south. Louise outlined how the chamber has used funding from the Manchester City to help smaller businesses (those with less than 50 employees) to access training via their new Skills Gateway Service. Through their employer ownership of skills contract the GMCC has delivered 944 starts (with 80 per cent from learners in SMEs).

Joe Parry, from the mechanical retailer HSS Hire, gave an update on: their company approach to attracting young people onto Apprenticeships; and the challenges they’ve faced in keeping them motivated in learning and progressing them into jobs and careers within the company. Joe said finding young people with the right attitude – and who want to work – is key. A view echoed by other participants who all agreed treating apprentices no differently to any other employee played a role in keeping them in the business.

As the discussion moved on to the mist and jargon surrounding the funding of Apprenticeships and the amount of administration involved in delivering them, Beverley Ashton, from Frederic Robinson Brewery, talked about her role in demystifying the processes and helping their pub managers to see the business benefits of employing an apprentice. Through working with her training provider to develop a tailored Apprenticeship programme the brewery currently has 125 learners on programme. Working with training providers who truly understand business needs was a hot topic of debate: Katie Gallagher, from Manchester Digital, talked about how Apprenticeship programmes have failed when providers don’t tailor their solutions and instead provide a generic training programme that doesn’t meet the technical skills needs of the employer, or the employee.

The debate finished with a round-up of what attendees would like to see happen to improve the skills situation in the Greater Manchester area. Catherine Jackson from Kier Construction raised the question of how and if employers could share apprentices from their subcontracted suppliers so they stay in learning once a contract has finished. All agreed work experience in schools should be linked to Apprenticeships or further learning and career opportunities. Louise Timperley stressed the need to be able to track an individual from leaving school through to further training, a job and career progression to prove the value of Apprenticeships. Louise also stressed employers want to influence the skills and training they have access to, not necessarily own them.

David Way closed the debate by highlighting the important role of training providers in helping to ‘enlighten not frighten’ employers when it comes to the role of Apprenticeships in helping to attract young talent into a business and addressing skills needs.