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How can businesses ‘close the skills gap?’

With many UK sectors reporting a significant ‘skills gap,’ a Lancashire employment and HR legal expert is offering advice on how businesses can effectively train staff and tap into other available resources.

Both the engineering and digital sectors have in recent years reported a need to step up the training of young people in relevant skills to become the next generation of workers in these industries.

Engineering sector leaders, for instance, have warned that thousands more engineers must be trained in coming years. In 2014, the Royal Academy of Engineering reported the figure stood at 75,000 new engineers per year.

Last year, digital charity Go.On UK revealed that a million small businesses in the UK did not have the proper skills to prosper in a society so dependent on digital technology.

Now Allison Coleman, HR advisor in the Employment & HR team at Napthens solicitors, has given some top tips for businesses looking to close these gaps.

She said: “First, businesses should understand why they are looking to close these gaps. What are the goals, objectives and strategy for the next 12-24 months? Once this is decided, look at whether these skills are available internally or whether they will have to be trained or upskilled.

“Training can be on-the-job or side-by-side which is often more effective than classroom-based training, with many people more receptive to this method as opposed to more formal learning.

“Online training can also be a cheaper alternative for mandatory topics such as health and safety. It also allows companies to react to needs faster, with an online course studied around other commitments with no need to wait for availability, trainers and meeting rooms.

“Some training can be far less formal – introduce a learning culture to share advice on what works and what doesn’t between managers, introduce a mentoring or buddy scheme, share advice between staff, and look at secondments either to gain new skills or upskill others. Such a culture can be more inclusive for all employees and many businesses do this very well.

“Finally, if businesses are not able to find the skills they need internally, Government-funded schemes are available. However, make sure that a training cost agreement is in place.”