At an event I attended last month on skills, the director of people and skills at the CBI, Neil Carberry, said that he thought the most important skill a company would need in the period ahead is the ability to deal with uncertainty. He also talked about the resilience that workers will need, so that they can cope with a changing social fabric and technological advancements at an ever-accelerating rate, meaning shorter technology cycles. The view is that companies will also come and go in shorter business cycles.
The latest Boardroom Bellwether report of FTSE 250 companies published in the Financial Times in December said no companies expected a “significant improvement” in the global economy in the next year. Over half thought Brexit would have a damaging effect with only 9 per cent seeing the impact as positive. All a bit gloomy but contrasted by the view that in their own sectors, forecasts were brighter with 57 per cent expecting an improvement or no change. Go figure that one out! If nothing else it shows “we don’t know what we don’t know” and for the time being you have to work in the market as it is, and be agile and resilient enough for change, be it the global economy, Brexit, social or technological.
We are again unapologetically focusing on training and skills in this issue. On the day of writing this opinion piece, the CEO of CITB, Adrian Belton, has just resigned. With Paul Morrell conducting the review of CITB for government and the Farmer Review asking for wholesale change at CITB, this is certainly an uncertain time for them.
Our sector has three skills time bombs ready to go off: a high proportion of EU immigrant labour, a workforce that will come under scrutiny over ‘hidden employment’ following a recent employment tribunal finding against Uber taxis, and an ageing workforce made up of many middle-aged workers who will retire in the years ahead. Our decision to develop our own in-house training team to assist FIS members looks more important if members are going to be able to find the skills they need to continue to service their clients.
To help us assess the scale of the problem, we’ve launched a labour market survey (www.thefis.org/survey) to take a comprehensive look at where our labour comes from, how qualified it is and its age profile. This information will make it much easier to lobby government about the need to maintain access to labour markets without onerous, bureaucratic visa restrictions that add cost to the whole process. I hope you will support us by completing the survey.
One of the features of a successful training strategy is that more training will be done by members and, as a consequence, members will get a better return on the levy they pay in. More trained workers, more grant returned and less uncertainty – at least in one area.
FIS chief executive