SMEs get help to close skills gap

A shortage of skilled workers is predicted to cause headaches for UK small and medium-sized businesses, according to research from the Department for Education & Skills. However, help could be at hand from the academic world.

In the survey of SMEs, 84 per cent said 2006 would be made more difficult by a lack of skilled stack to fill recruitment needs, while 74 per cent were concerned about a lack of skills among their existing workers. The vast majority, 85 per cent, believed a combination of work-based experience and academic knowledge was the best preparation for graduates entering the workforce.

To help small businesses with this lack of skills, WestFocus, a Government-funded consortium of seven London universities, has launched Companies & University Talent Industry Training (CUT-IT), a skills-matching service for graduates.

The first project begins in February 2006 and consists of 8-week placements of appropriately-skilled students and graduates with small or medium-sized businesses that are lacking skills in a certain area to work on specific tasks. For example, creative input for brochures, logos or designing an innovative website that delivers quality leads.

The participating universities are Brunel; Kingston; Roehampton; Royal Holloway, University of London; St George’s University of London; Thames Valley; and University of Westminster. Businesses in sectors relevant to the universities’ strengths will be offered the skills-matching service. Areas of expertise include environmental solutions, social inclusion, health, life sciences, materials and manufacture, IT and the creative industries.

WestFocus’s University Talent has a pool of 130,000 undergraduates and postgraduates to choose from and is aiming to visit a thousand companies within 15 months to solve their skills problems. CUT-IT opportunities will be advertised on their website and in university careers offices and companies will select from a shortlist of applicants.

The CUT-IT schemes will start in February and October and will be either be part-time for students to a maximum of 14 hours per week or full-time for graduates up to 12 months after graduating. Westfocus believes this is a safe and relatively risk-free way of obtaining affordable specialist skills as payment will be a minimum of £7.50 per hour.

Related Topics

Skills gap

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