By Ben Simmons

The UK’s top recruiters took part in a recent Skills, Employment & Growth Conference to discuss key challenges faced by employers and recruiters as unemployment continues to rise.

Chris Milward, Associate Director at the Higher Education Funding Council underlined the fact that "Higher education is increasingly about employability, not just skills". This is something that most recruiters would support. Michael Davis, Chief Executive of the UK Commission for Employment & Skills made the point that “employers must show leadership on the skills agenda by leveraging their supply chain". This could provide opportunities for recruiters who can demonstrate a commitment to promoting apprenticeships and other youth employment initiatives.

Organisations such as City & Guilds underlined the need for better links between education and the business community.

This was a key recommendation of the REC’s Youth Employment Taskforce force and is something the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) should facilitate. Recruiters and REC Regional Directors have already plugged into the work of LEPs — particularly in the South West.

Government representatives also recognised the need for the skills agenda to reflect regional and sectoral differences. This is an area where the work of REC Regional Directors and Sector Groups will become increasingly important. One example of current sectoral trends is the significant take-up of apprenticeships in financial services and creative industries.

Government officials confirmed that JobCentres would become more flexible and have more autonomy overt budget so that support services and employment initiatives meet the specific needs of local area. This is something that the REC will be discussing at our meeting with JobCentre Plus later this month.

Elsewhere on the agenda, Helen Judge, Director of Policy within the Ministry of Justice underlined the fact that ‘getting ex-offenders into work is the main factor in reducing re-offending’. Leading employers such as National Grid, DHL and M&S are being proactive on this agenda and it was agreed that the REC will forward updated feedback from the recruitment industry on this issue.

Reviewing the key themes and feedback from conference, Tom Hadley, REC Director of Policy and Professional Services says:

“We are making real progress in ensuring that the voice of the recruitment industry is at the forefront of the skills debate. As well as driving recognition for the role and expertise of recruiters, this is about exploring potential commercial opportunities for our sector. High profile events like today are also a great platform for nurturing our relationships with Government and employer organisations”.

“One key issue that we touched on with Government representatives was the need for better support and guidance for different categories of job-seekers. This is an area where specialised recruiters have already demonstrated their ability to make a difference under previous initiatives. Tapping into the expertise and contacts of recruitment professionals would provide a cost-effective way of driving the skills and employment agenda and is something we will continue to promote over the coming months”.

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