SMEs need to see improvements in education system

While all the talk of young people struggling to get jobs rumbles on, the sad truth is that businesses that do want to recruit cannot get the right staff.

Despite the NVQs, the apprenticeship schemes and so on, employers cannot get the skill sets they need and there is no sign of this easing.

In fact, a survey said that over a third of those who used the government’s apprenticeship scheme were thoroughly dissatisfied with it.

I hear endless tales of enthused business owners who sign up to it, never to have an applicant. Then, as I experienced, the actual skills training offered bears no relation or use to what we actually do.

Businesses are taking less and less people from local colleges and universities because those courses are too often irrelevant.

Links between FE colleges and business are almost nonexistent – the secondary skill links probably more fanned by parent teacher associations than any real common ground.

The spin doctors will bounce up and down and tell you about the funding available for training for SMEs. All true, and especially for under 25’s.

However many SMEs have no time to keep up to date with government funding schemes, or sit ticking boxes with training providers for hours on end, especially if the reward at the end of it is someone untrained, going on an irrelevant course, needing additional supervision and red tape paperwork .

In the furniture business we’ve seen the near extinction of old craftsmanship and skills. Many of us are investing more and more into trying to revive them, trying to set up our own schemes and invest beleaguered funds into a long term future.

Committed though we are, there are more immediate problems.

There is a shortage of skilled people left to teach. There is then this ridiculous new system of the so-called Job Centre, where jobs are posted online predominantly for those on benefits to – yet again – tick boxes to “prove” they have applied for a job and can continue to draw benefits.

If any more of my time is taken up with applicants who gaily inform me that they will be honest and tell me they are only attending interview to get the Job Centre off their back, I do not trust for their safety!

It therefore becomes extremely difficult to get the message out that a firm is looking for people who do genuinely want work or training.

So the training is highly irrelevant to many companies: the red tape stops people applying, we businesses have to do the training ourselves to make it relevant – and the government does not offer help there.

One of the biggest problems of all is what the Chamber’s surveys rather coyly called young people not being “work ready”, a phrase that elsewhere morphs into not prepared to work.

Is it the education system that is failing to produce a work ethic or the benefit system creating on-going generations with an expectation of entitlement? I suspect it is a combination and it is certainly a growing, tragic, problem.

Huge amounts of our time in recent months was dedicated to recruiting to little avail. We are committed to investing in training to keep our skill sets going as there are no courses.

I have young employees who we train into skills, and to see them take pride in both their work and what they achieve is one of the most satisfying things one could possibly ever do.

But like so many companies, I am struggling to find enough of them.

Jan Cavelle runs the Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.

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