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Skills for Life: CIA Conference


by Anita Caldwell

I recently attended the CIA Skills Conference, sponsored also by Cogent & the Outward Bound Trust, the event has left me again deeply appreciating the skills issue that is affecting every one of my clients, and all major named UK companies through to SMEs in the Chemicals/Scientific and Chemical-using sectors, it was a worthwhile inclusive event to attend.

At whatever level you recruit, the underlying reason for this recruitment is due to trying to find the highest calibre of talent for the role. If you have not got a challenging pipeline of internal talent in your company to support mid, senior or Board level positions in the future, you have a threat to your own growth and sustainability. When employees have reached a ceiling, or have been ‘over-promoted’ you have a problem, and companies have to look externally in the competitive skills market to find ‘fresh, new ideas’ to drive forward initiatives at management level.

Over the last years, key skills and expertise have been lost due to cost cutting and redundancies; it now highlights the importance of coaching and good old fashioned mentoring, to pass on not only technical expertise but business common sense too. It is excellent to see the success of the revived apprenticeship schemes, and seeing the results clearly demonstrated by the assuredness and confidence of the professionally trained apprentices presenting at the conference, all willing advocates to support this worthwhile and much-needed route into industry. The speakers talked about the added knock on effects for a company supporting a keen apprenticeship scheme, the intellectual stimulation it provides not only for them but the mentors, the trainers and operational teams alike to aim for best practice.

The apprentices also openly understood that a company’s pipeline of talent, clearly depended on a complementary blend of styles coming into the business team, including graduates and post graduates with Masters, PHDs and MBAs, plus mature, capable and ambitious people being developed or cross trained internally or being brought in from other sectors or other avenues of life (such as the Forces). Which rang true to my recent blog about university ‘Horses for Courses’.

Altruistic views were shown that even if a company supports an apprentice or graduate through training and ultimately loses them elsewhere, at least they are still supporting the Chemicals/Scientific sector (although this is harder pill to swallow for an SME). It is clear that this movement is beneficial for UK industry in general and through my search work also know the Chemicals/Scientific sector doesn’t stand alone in isolation. Other industries are clearly inter-related to the Chemicals/Scientific sector and skills are transferable, as demonstrated in the speech by the closely linked ‘Nuclear industrial hub’ of the ECITB, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board.

Hearing the summary surmising what the Government may do next in the ‘skills’ market, it seems to have left an already fragmented market of successful, ‘independent hubs’ trying their best to develop skills in a current limbo. The conference clearly showed the passion for employers wanting to take control of developing their own people and being willing to invest in the best talent. But stability for a sustained period in the overall training skills arena would seem to be needed for all.

The fundamental issue is that we all need to understand the importance the skills issue has on UK industry, and really educate our school children and school/college/university leavers what a fantastic career, manufacturing and industry actually offers to them. This must start with educating society; teachers, lecturers, recruiters, employers, parents etc. in understanding the myriad of interesting routes into industry. Showing that people shape their own careers into mid or senior management or directorship positions, through so many evolving functional routes to the top, and also through softer skills, including ‘people management’, ‘commercial nous’, ‘operational excellence’, ‘commitment, loyalty and hard work’!

With the all the excellent news about the Engineering QE Prize #QEPrize2015 celebrations recently and with The Queen personally supporting the drive to attract more young people into engineering, what better focus can be given to start raising public awareness.

If you have a recruitment need or problem, as I would be pleased to discuss how we could help you through a targeted search approach, please do not hesitate to get in touch through any of the details below.


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