Skills gap holds back businesses

A report from the Small Business Council has identified a skills shortage amongst small businesses, creating a barrier to growth.

The annual report from the Council revealed that many employers would like help from the Learning & Skills Council (LSC) in meeting their skills needs. Nearly three-quarters of respondents wanted assistance in accessing available funding, while half would like help from the LSC in achieving the Investors in People standard.

A possible first port of call for small- and medium-sized businesses looking for assistance in training employees and managers would be the local Business Link, the government service for SMEs.

David Klaasen, a Business Link adviser specialising in human resources, says that employers should consider skills carefully at the recruitment stage. They should be aware of what is needed both in the advertisement and the interview.

He suggests that a candidate who has the “ability and desire to learn” may be the best choice. This type of person can then be trained in relevant skills.

Klaasen believes that one often overlooked and undervalued source of training is the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). This is a recognised qualification based on 5 levels, ranging from key skills to managing an international company.

Basic literacy and numeracy skills and their practical application in a working environment are the focus of the LSC. Keith Bartlett of the LSC gives the example of a cleaner learning how to dilute the correct amount of bleach in a one-litre bucket.

Klaasen describes these “basic skills” as ones that “everyone assumes everyone has”, but it is frequently not the case and this is a major cause of the skills shortfall.

A third training option is Learn Direct, the online training scheme, which supplies internet training packages on a range of subjects. These are often free to small businesses.

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