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“Of course there’s a tendency to do that,” he says, “but remember this. say that if they train staff, they’ll leave, which is absolutely not true in the
The South East and the UK as a whole are only competitive through majority of cases. On the contrary, employers who look after their
innovation and intellectual property…our knowledge, basically. We workforce with better training will find they will be less inclined to leave,
can’t compete on prices, so if we don’t train our people we have NO not more, on top of which there will be greater motivation and
CHANCE of maintaining a competitive advantage. And anyway, it significantly less absenteeism.”
would be a mistake to cut spending on training now, during a
downturn, because when the economy picks up you won’t be ready
When it comes to training young people for work, Paphitis is particularly
to take advantage of it.”
proud of the new National Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service
which is being piloted here in the South East this autumn. Part of the
That said, Paphitis would be the first to congratulate employers who
new online vacancy matching service allows 15-16 year olds to
take training seriously. After all, they are the shining examples he wants
match themselves with companies offering apprenticeships, either in
to use to persuade others to follow suit. But can he point to empirical
their own locality or across the nation.
research that demonstrates the actual monetary value of training?
That’s the sort of bottom-line question hard-pressed company owners
“It’s funny,” Paphitis says, “a lot of people still say ‘Wouldn’t it be great to
need answering.
bring apprenticeships back, just like the old days’! Well of course, they
are here and in a major way. There are currently 170,000 apprentices
“No, there isn’t,” he admits. “But what I will say is this. Those companies
in the UK, all learning skills and achieving qualifications that will enable
who invest in training also happen to be among the most successful in
them to further their academic education if they want to, while being
the country. We can’t attribute it specifically to just training because
in full-time employment.”
other elements of the business are run well too, such as operations,
Paphitis won’t be drawn on the inherent contradiction in government
basic management and R&D. Look at British Aerospace, they’ve been
policy that on the one hand encourages more and more young
through massive changes and yet they survive and prosper, and
people to stay in school till they are 18 and go on to study when they
guess what? They are a massive investor in training, particularly in
might be much more suited to vocational apprenticeships that not
apprentices. Draw your own conclusions, but I choose to believe there
only satisfy them but also provide businesses with properly trained
is a correlation between success and the training of staff.”
workers. However, he does believe that the improved utility and
accessibility of apprenticeships will give young people a much
That does indeed sound obvious and it begs the question of
better understanding of the choices ahead of them, ultimately
companies that do not have a culture of staff training that perhaps
making it more likely that those for whom A levels and university are
they are missing a major trick in ensuring their own prosperity and
not necessarily the right option will find their feet sooner and go on to
creating a happier, more stable workforce. However, as Paphitis
be a boon to the economy and their own career. The government is
and others in the training industry will testify, business generally sees
certainly investing a stack of money in making the further education
it as the job of government and the state education system to
that underpins apprenticeships a much better experience. A
churn out fully-trained young workers. For evidence, one need look
whopping £1.7 billion is being invested through the Learning and Skills
no further than the CBI’s call this August for more science teaching
Council in rebuilding all the colleges in the south east.
in schools. They are absolutely right, of course, it is in everybody’s
interests for the level of educational achievement to rise. Yet as the
“Colleges will be provided with a series of world-class buildings,”
Leitch Review of Skills in 2006, which called for Britain to become a
Paphitis says. “By the end of this process the colleges of the south east
world-leader in skills and training by 2020, pointed out so
will offer young people and adults a truly wonderful array of
compellingly, 70% of the 2020 workforce are already in work, so if
opportunities and facilities.”
the government has the responsibility to improve the quality of
youngsters entering the workforce, industry has an equal if not
The investment is a largely unsung testament to the government’s
greater responsibility to improve the skills of those already in it. The
rather admirable commitment to ‘upskilling’ the nation’s workforce. But
Learning and Skills Council has programmes that help employers
as Marinos Paphitis says, the stakes are high and the price of failure for
do that, some of them at no charge.
this country, ever more reliant on its intellect, almost too awful to
“Through ‘Train to Gain’ we work very closely with colleges of further
education and with private training providers to help companies
understand what training would suit their employees’ needs and how
Learning and Skills Council South East
to implement it,” Paphitis says. “Of course we get some employers who
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