The importance of training now and beyond COVID-19
Thought piece written by Claire Gavaghan, CEO of Malton-based Derwent Training Association and member of the York & North Yorkshire LEP Skills Board.
The world of work has changed. It has always been evolving. Think industrial revolution as well as the introduction of automation. However, a global pandemic has been like an electric shock to the system. Virtually everyone in business has felt the impact. Unfortunately, for some the shock has been seismic.
Whilst businesses have continuity plans, they will never have expected a pandemic to be the reason for it being enacted. Now however, we acknowledge the changes we face in creating and inventing the new norm, and developing ways in which we can work effectively, efficiently and with limited interruption.
The economy has taken a hit. But the economy is not simply financial. The economy exists because of human capital and that capital requires support to grow and develop its resilience once again. Increasing productivity, learning new skills & ways of working are vital for this region and the UK. This means all employers need to generate growth and that requires investment in skill development, not when the skill is needed, but ahead of time. Too many employers have not done this.
I am sure all business leaders have had a gamut of emotions in the last 6 weeks. Inertia, panic, hope, fear. Many will have thought ‘if only we had…’ Whether it is the ability to switch to online sales by creating a website with photographs of stock, whether it is developing a media presence, whether it is repurposing the business to produce something else, or diversifying output, what is evident is the need to have a wide set of skills within the workforce. With the majority of training now available online together with excellent remote support, it is a great time to invest for the future through training and upskilling staff.
Some training will involve completion of short courses or attendance at webinars. Some will require greater investment of time. Furloughed staff are able to start apprenticeships now and use the time away from work productively on their learning. This is a win-win situation for an employer. The Government is paying the employees wage and the majority, if not all, of the funding for the training. Remember, Levy payers are spending money given back to them by HMRC. It stopped being the employers money once the Levy was paid.
The Federation of Small Businesses are, for example, providing guidance and training to businesses on a wide range of topics including planning for recovery. Local authorities are delivering webinars to help employers and employees improve their knowledge base in order to keep their firms running. Whatever route is taken by an employer, it is crucial that leaders lead, not simply for the present but for the future.
David Kerfoot, Chair of York & North Yorkshire LEP, said that ‘we need to empower growth for the long term for everyone, taking heed of what lies beyond the horizon, and be ready for whatever comes our way.’