08 December 2017

Dr Paul Phillips CBE, principal and chief executive at Weston College Group, offers advice to employers on how to recruit a skilled workforce.

We have all been in the situation in which we have struggled to recruit for a particular role. Now more than ever, particularly with the uncertainty of leaving the European Union, businesses need to become more proactive in ensuring a sustainable and skilled workforce for the future.

What can businesses do to achieve this? The change needs to begin within businesses and their approach to recruitment and training, with a focus on partnerships with local colleges and training providers. At the same time, colleges and training providers need to change their approach and actively seek to develop relationships with businesses to ensure that they are delivering the relevant provision which teaches the skills that businesses need.


Offer work experience

Work experience forms a major part in many courses and the benefits to employers are numerous. Working with schools and colleges to offer work experience opens up a channel of recruitment, and could potentially persuade young people to consider a career in your sector. If the person you offer work experience to is inspired to work towards a career path in your sector, you will be able to talk to them about the qualifications they will need to do so. Other benefits include giving your current staff the opportunity to experience management and raising the community profile of your organisation.

There will be a greater focus on work experience as part of further education qualifications through the introduction of T Levels in September 2019.

Train your current staff

Employee turnover is a natural element of business, but high levels of staff turnover can take a toll on your organisation’s recruitment budget, staff development and morale. Training your current employees not only helps to expand their skills, teach them new methods, and increase their productivity; studies have shown that staff training leads to increased motivation and a reduced employee turnover. With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, many larger companies need to start looking into offering apprenticeships to current employees as well as new recruits.

Offer apprenticeships

One of the most effective ways of bringing a new generation of employees to your company is through apprenticeships. Apprenticeships reduce recruitment and training costs, and your company will have direct input into the creation of the apprenticeship programmes, meaning that you can develop your own skilled and qualified workforce based on the exact skills requirements of your organisation.

Apprenticeships have been massively expanded over the last decade and can now be delivered from Level 2 (GCSE level) to degree-level, which makes them very beneficial in terms of ensuring your employees or new recruits are trained to the standard that your business requires.

Look into traineeship programmes

Traineeships are pre-apprenticeship or pre-employment courses that last up to 16 weeks and are aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds who aren’t in work or education. Most businesses offer traineeships as they can be used to build up a pool of talent and train young people before they start an apprenticeship. By offering traineeships with the possibility of an apprenticeship, you will be able to judge the trainees’ suitability for the apprenticeship role before formally recruiting them to the position. Traineeships are fully funded by the government and you aren’t obliged to pay your trainees.

Look for untapped talent

Going forward, as unemployment levels continue to fall and the shortage of work-ready recruits with the relevant skills increases, businesses need to become more proactive in engaging in untapped sources of talent. One of the sources that springs to mind that relatively few employers have capitalised on is ex-offenders. At first it might seem daunting to employ someone who has previously been convicted of a crime, but the criminal justice system now has a huge focus on rehabilitation and reducing reoffending – and one of the major factors in reducing reoffending is securing employment.

On top of this, there are over 790,000 young people in the UK who are not engaged in employment or education who can be reached through traineeship schemes and trained and developed into a valuable employee through apprenticeships.

My own college in Weston-super-Mare is already working with over 1,400 large and small employers to use the training solutions above to train, recruit and ensure that they have a constant stream of new work-ready employees applying to work with them – but there is also a lot more that you can do to maximise your business’s potential and its return on investment.

In conjunction with this, schools and colleges need to take a more employment-focused approach to education. For too long schools and sixth forms have prioritised the promotion of A Levels and university over more vocational and work-based routes – something which will hopefully change with the introduction of T Levels which seek to add the credibility of A Levels to technical study.

Here are the things that your business should be doing to ensure a sustainable and skilled workforce for the future.


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