News | Published November 24 2019

Holliday Fielding Hocking look to address skills gap by providing in-house training

As the general election of December 12 draws ever closer, much is being made of how the major parties are seeking to address the longstanding skills gap that has blighted British industry.

The Conservatives already have a National Retraining Scheme in the pipeline for adults who need to learn new sets of skills to continue with their work or find a new job, which is now in its testing phase. It is set to be rolled out more broadly in 2020, followed by plans to introduce new vocational qualifications known as T-Levels.

At the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry on Monday, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson declared her party the ‘natural party of business’, outlining her ambitions to setup a £10,000 ‘skills wallet’ for every adult in England to be spent on training and plans to axe business rates.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has promised to spend an additional £3 billion per year on a free retraining scheme for adults in England to improve job prospects and help close the skills gap.

One firm that has been forced to contend with recruitment issues fuelled by the shortage of skilled workers is Holliday Fielding Hocking, a 74-year-old business in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

The family-run business specialised in the installation, servicing and maintenance of laboratory fume cupboards, extraction equipment and laboratory furniture. However, as managing director Michael Holliday discussed in The Parliamentary Review, finding staff with such experience is becoming increasingly more of a challenge in this country.

With the skills gap exacerbated by a falling uptake of apprenticeships and the shortcomings of the existing apprenticeship levy, Holliday decided that the best and most cost-effective course of action for his business was to hire people qualified as service technicians ‘who have a willingness to adapt’ and train them on the job.

Holliday said in the Review: “Fume cupboard engineering skills are increasingly hard to come by in the UK. Staff with relevant experience are even more difficult to find. To continue having a strong UK presence, we must recruit service technicians who have a willingness to adapt.

“We have chosen therefore to recruit with general skills and train from within, with tutelage from a seasoned engineer and an instilled quality-focused culture”.

With all the issues surrounding the cost of apprenticeship schemes and how to properly run them, there is perhaps a case for small and medium-sized business to instead hire employees with base qualifications and mould them into skilled workers in-house, rather than looking to recruit the finished product from the beginning. For those working in more niche areas of industry such as the Holliday family, it certainly presents itself as an effective solution for contemporary recruitment issues, as well as a positive model for future longevity.

What the future of apprenticeships and training might look like will more than likely begin to take shape with the outcome of the general election at the end of 2019. With the countdown now well under way, British business looks on with an eager eye.

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The Parliamentary Review

November 24 2019

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