Voice of Reason: Bhanu Dhir

Skills and Productivity

FE News has reported, under the headline “sharper focus needed on skills crucial to UK productivity” that “BEIS and DfE do not currently have sufficient understanding of what specific skills businesses really need or how Brexit will affect the already difficult task of ensuring the supply of STEM skills in the workforce.”

Almost fifteen years’ experience working in education and business, tells me that good businesses are more likely to hire for attitude and train for skills.

Nobody is decrying the need for STEM skills in young people however it seems that if it’s a productive workforce you want, you also need to consider the following three things:

  1. Aspirational and engaged workers and therefore young people who are entering the workforce
  2. Well designed jobs which motivate new and old workers to perform at their best
  3. An effective transition process from the culture of education and the culture of work.

Young people disengaged from educational attainment are likely to also be disengaged from the idea of meaningful work. The question is, can these issues be addressed? Yes, of course they can.

It is what we and every organisation do on a day to day basis when we work with young people. Developing a strong sense of mission with an understanding of self-empowerment and team working produces aspirational and determined young people who are focused on achieving goals and personal team success.

My time with the Chamber shockingly revealed how few business leaders understand how to create interesting and well-designed jobs. This is across all sectors and size of business. What is worse is that businesses create cultures that exclude and demotivate rather than motivate and inspire.

As businesses find it more and more difficult to secure talent post-Brexit, maybe business owners will instruct their executives to wake up and smell the coffee.

Simon Sinek does a great job highlighting the problems associated when young people, familiar with a pupil centric school culture come face to face with a results-centric workplace culture. Perhaps the way to bridge the gap is to have more schools and businesses talking with each other. Sounds simple except the culture gap leads to the kinds of unforgivable faux pas that destroy relationships. Perhaps with OFSTED more mindful of long-term positive progression measures can offer appropriate guidance and advice on best practice in this area.

Let’s start with improving the aspirations and self-directedness of all young people. Not only will this improve productivity significantly, we already know how to do it so we can start now.