Learning and Skills – To train or not to train

To train or not to train

Nigel Donohue, CEO of West Anglia Training Association, gives his view on the impact the EU referendum will have on training and maintaining a skilled workforce.

“Human Resources are the key differentiator between great and average businesses and without continued investment in training and apprenticeships it will become increasingly challenging to compete in a new European and World Trading arena.

The people have spoken and we are to leave the EU as soon as we have a new Prime Minister and the Government evoke Article 50, assuming there is a consensus in Parliament and after 2 years of divorce negotiations, a potential second Scottish Independence referendum and the prospect of a stagnant market similar to that experienced in 2012… Or at least that’s the latest view

So is David Cameron’s target of 3 million apprentices during the life of this parliament still realistic? Probably not, but to be honest without some real creative accounting it probably never was, and what is the life of this parliament now we have such an uncertain future over Europe? Let’s not forget that it’s not Government who decide how and when we recruit apprentices its Employers of Small, Medium and Large Enterprises and whilst apprenticeship levies may help focus the mind they don’t necessarily promote the correct behaviours.quote1

It is fair to say that there has never been a more challenging time in this Country for business and it must be extremely tempting to simply sit back and wait to see what happens, putting off the investment and recruitment decision, controlling budgets and not investing in training and development and effectively hunkering down and riding out the storm.

Why should companies bother when we are still trying to understand what the apprenticeship levy will look like, still unsure about how the new standards will operate, how they will be assessed and what value they will bring to companies fighting to secure world trade on the back of an uncertain future as to our trade arrangements with Europe?

So why should we continue to invest in the workforce, train up new staff, develop apprentices within an organisation?

The answer is simple, if we don’t then who will? When or indeed if we do leave the EU a further 2 years will have passed. If our ability to secure talent from within the European talent pool is then limited by additional immigration regulation we may no longer be seen as an attractive place to live and work. We want to grow and prosper and compete against our colleagues in the European Union therefore we must have the best and most competitive offer, we won’t have this if we don’t have outstanding products developed to a high standard, at the right price, with the minimum through life cost. I am sure I don’t need to tell you that the important and key factor in all of this is having a professional, sustainable and highly skilled workforce and the key to achieving this is to grow our own.quote2

So it will be uncertain for some time to come, we may or may not exit Europe, we may have some very interesting leadership challenges until such time as the world returns to a degree of normality and yes there is a very realistic possibility of another recession and some very difficult trading conditions. But if we don’t invest in people when we do have those inevitable opportunities we will fail to deliver due to lack of talent and the prospect of a recession becomes much more likely.

Of course I would say that wouldn’t I being the Chief Executive of a Training organisation, it’s in my interest to ensure that we have a buoyant training marketplace and like you want to protect my order book and ability to continue to protect my workforce, invest in our business and be ready for what comes next.

You may well be correct in thinking this, however, at West Anglia Training Association we exist because since 1976 you have wanted us to exist. Formed as registered charity at a time when employers faced similar challenges, were unhappy with the way in which the skills agenda was being managed, lacked confidence in the provision from Further Education and wanted a credible alternative. Companies such as yours got together and created Group Training Associations such as ours, to deliver bespoke training that aligned better to your business needs and ensured you had the effective talent to grow into the outstanding and sustainable organisations you are today.

So West Anglia Training Association are here to continue to support our member companies, will continue to invest in innovative training solutions that best meet your business needs and whatever the agenda, whatever the economic outlook, whatever the leadership of this country looks like we will continue with the very clear mandate you gave us back in 1976 because frankly your needs and wants might have evolved and your expectations grown but they haven’t really changed.

So we are open for business are you?”