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Published Tue, Jun 21st 2011

Developing skills for business success

Skills development must be a priority if the UK's Print and Paper companies are to compete effectively in today's commercial marketplace, argues Richard Moore, Print and Paper Industry Lead at Proskills (the Sector Skills Council for the Process and Manufacturing industries), who explores employer assumptions regarding training

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Knowledge and technical expertise are increasingly important commodities in the modern commercial environment, and training staff in new methods and techniques can give companies willing to commit the necessary funds a significant competitive edge. However, many print and paper companies are facing acute pressures in the short-term, which often leads them to neglect the need to keep an eye on emerging trends and prepare for the future.

Some employers go even further, believing that quantity is more important than quality, and reach only the minimum production standards required in the rush to improve efficiency. Their attitude seems to be: why develop the skills of the workforce when this is only going to create unnecessary costs, which in today's highly competitive marketplace could be suicidal? But is this really the reputation the UK Paper and Print Industry wants?

Companies should be striving to provide high quality goods to ensure they gain repeat orders and build a reputation for excellence, and highly-qualified staff are better placed to deliver that than employees who feel the company neglects their professional development. These days, customers expect more for their money and will shop around to find it, and companies that fail to respond will quickly find themselves left behind.

The answer to the conundrum of how to keep pace with development while simultaneously minimising costs is right in front of you - your staff. We know that it is not just top line managers who affect the direction of a company; the entire workforce is involved in a variety of continuous improvement schemes, cost savings projects and much more. Even those working on a production line have an impact on the business and thoughts on how it can be improved.

Their skills and abilities represent the lifeblood of a business, and while investing in training clearly leads to short-term costs, in the long-term it brings real benefits to both the employee and the company. The employee feels they are progressing and gaining new skills, while the company benefits from the value those skills add to the business; by working together and developing as a team, you are tapping into a vast resource - a person's potential.

We at Proskills have heard many reasons why employers do not train their staff - the training available is not relevant, there is no time, training is too expensive or they fear that trained staff may leave to join competitors. This is a false economy which in the long-term will hold companies back; we know the importance of training, and are committed to helping the UK's process and manufacturing industries invest in skills development.

In the past year, Proskills has secured £3.5m of Government investment to support higher level skills that will help improve efficiency in the sector. We were awarded Joint Investment Programme (JIP) funds for 2011, and employers in the Proskills sectors can get up to 50% of the cost of training funded by the Government.

Over 3,000 places are available in a variety of higher qualifications including business improvement techniques, management and leadership, sustainability and carbon management. Money is also available for apprenticeship training, which represents a real opportunity for companies to build for their future.

Schemes such as the JIP are an important source of potential funding for employers, particularly with Government support from programmes like Train to Gain disappearing and the economic outlook remaining uncertain. Companies are keen to keep costs down, but they also need to invest in training if they are to thrive in the modern marketplace, and the opportunities are out there to help them do so.

At Proskills we visit print and paper companies all over the country, from large multi-nationals to small units with few staff - all of whom are interested in the opportunities out there which can help them develop. Employer investment in training schemes will help the UK Print and Paper industries become stronger and compete effectively.

We have to develop new techniques and skills if we are to compete for tomorrow's business, and Proskills is here to help the UK's print and paper companies maintain their place at the forefront of development.

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