By Terry Watts, CEO of Proskills, the Sector Skills Council for the process & manufacturing sector

We’ve found that most employers report to having a skills gap in their workforce but struggle to pin point exactly where there gap is.

According to our research there more than 44,000 people already in employment in the process and manufacturing sectors with skill gaps relating to their current occupations while around 1 in 5 vacancies are hard to fill for due to a low number of skilled applicants.

However, before companies can analyse what’s missing they first need to understand what skills the business needs, now and for the future. Then what skills are available in the current workforce. If you don’t know where you are or where you need to get to then there’s no way of finding a solution.

1. Direction of the business

Only by setting out the direction of the business and how you can get there can you achieve an alignment of skills. Do this as part of your business plan and setting of objectives.

An effective and strategically aligned training, skills or development policy is one of the best tools a business can have and by analysing business needs can you invest wisely in staff development to ensure maximum return.

2. What existing skills are available?

Before analysing what skills are available in your company, understand what skills you need to fulfil certain job roles. This way, you can identify what gaps there are in skills and how best to fill them.

Companies firstly need to understand what skills are needed for a certain job role before they can analyse what skills are available. By understanding what you need you can then see where the skills gaps are and how you can fill them.

Armed with, effectively a “map” of the actual and optimum skills profile of the company a business can then decide how and where to cut, or invest.

3. Spotting gaps

Understanding the skills mix in the workforce, or where to invest, is not easy but you need to spot the gaps before you can fill them. The larger the workforce, the more difficult it is to manage. There are tools such as Strategic Skills Management software or skills management tools that can make the process easy to manage, saving time and resource and ultimately money. A methodical approach is essential.

Strategic Skills Management software helps businesses do a better job. These tools focus business energy by ensuring employees are working toward the same goals by allowing managers to define job roles via national occupational standards, assess the gaps, define the common problem areas, prioritise training needs and define the Return on Investment relative to the required training investment.

4. Fill the gaps

A great way to fill skills gaps in existing workforces is through vocational learning. This is tailored to meet the needs of industry and can help improve the productivity and profitability of a business.

Vocational learning also helps ensure future workforce generations are equipped with the right skills and qualifications to meet current and future business needs.

The mixture of on and off job learning ensures they learn the skills that work best for business.

5. Invest in developing your workforce

Remember that developing your workforce is not just about recruiting and training the new generation of graduates but investing in current and existing workforce is just as important.

Investing in the existing workforce will help employees to reach their potential, provide a multi skilled workforce and create an exciting workplace to attract quality recruits.

6. Train your staff to a be more productive

Raising the skills of the workforce has been shown to improve productivity and bottom line performance whilst increasing staff retention. Raising skills levels allows the benefits offered by changing technologies to be fully realised. According to research, businesses that invest in relevant skills training have been more than twice as likely to have experienced growth.

By training employees; your business is more likely to improve productivity and competitiveness as a result of improved knowledge, additional skills and staff morale.

Research has also found that skills gaps are costing on average £1,200 per employee per year in lost productivity.

But by training your employees; you’re more likely to improve their productivity and competitiveness as result of improved knowledge, additional skills and staff morale.

There are many courses available to enhance training and skills relevant to job roles such as certificates in analysing and improving performance and quality management.

Training employees and addressing skills shortages enable employees to address constantly changing consumer demands and preferences as well as boosting innovation.

Knowledge about new products and market demands enables and accelerates innovation and there are a range of training providers that offer relevant training to suit business needs.

Provider Finder enables businesses from across the process and manufacturing sector to find the right training provider to suit their training needs.

7. Use support

Sector Skills Councils (SSC) and National Skills Academy’s help employers to address skills needs and training by setting the skills standards for industry-relevant and quality-assured training and qualifications.

Proskills SSC and the Proskills Academy represent the interests of the process and manufacturing sector by researching industry needs and ensuring that standards and qualifications are in line with employer needs. Proskills Academy provides employers and learners with relevant training programmes and solutions and co ordinates the development of a wide range of employer endorsed products and services.

8. The future

Look at tomorrow and not just today and ensuring that the right skills infrastructure is in place to support business performance and growth. Use your workforce effectively and invest in them so that they emerge with the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to lead the way in the 21st century.