Debate: Investing in skills for growth

Skills are key to any business’ growth. With Boost Business Lancashire; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub, we brought our panel to Brockholes to look at skills, training and development and their impact on productivity.

Boost Investing in skills for growth

PRESENT: Richard Slater ~ Lancashire Business View • Andrew Leeming ~ Boost Business Lancashire • Nigel Davies ~ BAE Systems •  Helen Fogg ~ Lancaster University Management School • Richard Harrison ~ Geminus Training • Susan Meadows ~ Sagar • Lisa Moizer ~ Lancashire Skills Hub • Louisa Scanlan ~ Collaborate Business Solutions • Chris Smith ~ Pendle Engineering

How do we persuade businesses to keep investing in skills?

Andrew Leeming: How can we not keep investing in skills? In periods of uncertainty you can’t stop doing what you are doing. What you need to do is knuckle down, look at doing more and look at having better, smarter conversations.

It’s about how, as business owners, you try to enforce and reinforce the idea that you need your staff and your team to be the very best they can be.

Lisa Moizer: Businesses have to be open to having a conversation. If everything is going well it’s very hard to persuade a business to make an investment when they don’t see the return on that investment. It comes down to whether or not they see it as beneficial and why there are barriers.

Nigel Davies: You need to know your own business. One of the key things we have looked at and have a clear understanding of is demographics in relation to how we deliver skills and training.

We need to meet the needs of the younger generation coming in but there is still a need to re-skill and refresh the older generation in relation to the changes of our business.

We invested in our training centre because we wanted to look at how we innovate and inspire our existing workforce, but also the next generation.

Richard Harrison: Skills isn’t the start of the conversation, it is the end of it. If we look at the productivity gap, we perform well as a country with technology and with process. So you have to improve people to improve productivity.

Skills provision has to be linked to benefit or impact. If we’re selling skills commercially the first thing we need to do is go to a business and talk about the impact and the return on investment.

It’s not just the cost of training in terms of pound notes but also the time companies contribute. It’s a big investment so organisations need to see a tangible return.

Andrew Leeming: There’s a real stereotype out there about training being this really dull, uninteresting load of paperwork and we need to shift the conversation away from training that is passive into training that is dynamic, exciting and invigorating.

Susan Meadows: I completely agree. When people talk to me about training they tell me what they can do. What I don’t hear a lot of is, ‘What are the needs of our staff?’

It’s about developing a flexible training force and that’s not just about doing a course every now and then.

Chris Smith: When times are uncertain I tend to look at an item of expenditure and ask if it is a luxury or a necessity. I dare say there will be lots of firms that view training as a luxury item but that’s the biggest mistake you can make. If you don’t view skills as a necessity then you need to start.

Louisa Scanlan: The people who are coming towards the end of their careers are the ones we need to be using as our mentors and our coaches to ensure their knowledge and experience is instilled in the younger generation and I think we miss that.

We think we can get it all from a course or a handbook or being on a training programme, whereas actually you get that development from spending time on the job.