Team meeting

After a topsy-turvy few years, UK businesses are on the up once again. The efficiencies and cost-saving measures taken by many firms up and down the country as a result of recession have paid dividends. But now it’s time to invest sensibly, otherwise both large and small businesses will be left behind by competitors, and an economy that currently oozes prosperity.

Over the years, training and apprenticeship schemes have been met by skepticism by many CEOs but that’s changed in the past couple of years. It had to, otherwise the stale, out of date training theory of yester-year would have continued to do nothing for the UK economy.

Up-skilling is paramount

The Government is committed to up-skilling the British workforce too. It recognises that the UK faces a significant skills shortage in the coming years and neglecting this will cost the economy billions of pounds.

Clearly for all thriving businesses, it can be more effective to promote and progress individuals from within. They already know the culture, they understand why their division or role is so vital to the business. But they don’t necessarily understand the big picture, the goals of the board and which departments or areas within the business are having growth pains.

Internal apprenticeship schemes provide staff with new, and vital ways to improve as an individual, as well as gain vital awareness across the business and in turn making you, and the business, more profitable. Carrying out training that is geared towards the goals and vision of the CEO and board is important. Theory and techniques to address issues highlighted by the business, and tailored in to a training package will always have a place but it’s really about how they are applied and what impact it has on efficiencies, and the bottom line.

The government is singing the same tune

That’s why government funding should be dedicated to support value-added training programmes. It recognises that training should not just be a tick box exercise - it needs to apply pragmatic tools and demonstrate quantifiable results.

Because of this, Whitehall supports initiatives such as the Business Improvement Techniques (BIT) funded workforce development programme. It is a vehicle for people to understand the principles of lean manufacturing while, at the same time, enhance the functional skills and health and safety objectives of employers.

BIT is a nationally-accredited programme with structured learning outcomes. It’s designed around a classroom-based core, but with accreditation only given to those that can demonstrate tangible cost savings, a rise in quality, and morale and cultural improvements that will ultimately lead to progression both for the individual, and turnover.

The accreditation itself is a national BTEC Level 2 qualification encompassing five critical elements – a vocational-related qualification in operational management; functional skills (in other words, maths and English); personal learning and thinking; employee rights and responsibilities; and the lean technical certificate (which includes CI, Kaizen and 5S).

This is an exceptionally cost-effective programme too. A typical commitment from the employer is to release the learner for 12 classroom days per year; this costs the employer around £1,000. However, the results are impressive – an average of £4,500 per learner in cost savings in the first year. We also see that 95 percent of learners are passing their functional skills, a priority for the Government and for enlightened employers.

The BIT programme is available to all small and medium sized businesses in England, with approved providers utilising funding from colleges to leverage Skills Funding Agency finance. JTJ does this via its college support network to deliver exceptional training with proven practitioners. It also builds a strong relationship with colleges throughout the UK to offer businesses higher end training and bespoke programmes to develop their total workforce, not just the shop floor.

Every sector has its own challenges, each and every business has its way of doing things, but what is common amongst us all is that we are always looking to progress at an individual level, as well as a corporate one. Training for trainings sake is no longer an option – it now has to be the key catalyst for growth.

By Adam Hayes, director of JTJ Workplace Solutions