The project worked with employers to identify their needs for higher leadership and management skills for businesses in the innovative smart specialisation sector. The findings are being used to design a solution to the higher level skills gap that can be integrated into the college’s leadership and management courses and meet the specific needs of employers in the sector.
TyneMet worked with both employers and strategic partners, including North Tyneside Council, to find out what they required to close the higher level skills gap. It’s also aiming to link up with the North East LEP, which has identified innovation as one of its key priorities for economic growth in the region.
The results have been fed into New College Durham’s SSNE project and could also be expanded to identify if there is a need for further new courses, covering issues such as whole organisation or cultural impacts of leadership and management, and innovation training.
Project funding allowed the college to join manufacturers’ organisation EEF, which provided invaluable links to employers and access to wider research.
The college carried out more than 30 face to face and telephone interviews with employers to find out their skills challenges – especially in higher level skills - and the value of higher skilled employees to the business. From a list of pre-compiled skill areas, employers highlighted those most in demand, both now and in the future, along with other critical skills-related business issues.
The research threw up common themes, providing a clarity of focus for the college and presenting some unexpected opportunities. The findings were used to map these skills areas against current and planned programmes and modules over a range of departments and levels, including higher skills levels. As a result, the college identified relevant training solutions for the employer group.
It is hoped the work can continue through the college’s involvement with North Tyneside Council’s new business and innovation centre - Swans Centre for Innovation - which could enable businesses to take advantage of the new training on offer.
County Durham-based The Pacifica Group, which is one of the UK’s biggest providers of home appliance and gas heating repair, replacement and maintenance services, became involved in the project following work with the college on improving its core managers’ leadership and management style.
Group financial controller, John Bramley, said: “We wanted to put a programme together to upskill people without having to recruit so called ‘better’ people. We have a need for recruitment but we thought why not give our own people a chance through training, which then promotes everyone in the business.”
He says that higher level skills are “massively important” for the group.
My personal belief and as a business Pacifica absolutely believes people are the way forward. We’re a business built on a family and friends approach, we have a small business feel. We saw an opportunity – why can’t every individual be a leader, and feel good about that too? We looked at corporate management systems for our core staff, and also empowering other staff by embedding smaller programmes to help take them to the next level, so when the opportunity comes along, they’re ready.
The company is now assessing the leadership and management modules that are currently available and will be working with TyneMet on something bespoke for Pacifica in the New Year.
The business had previously worked with New College Durham and training organisations to help develop its staff. John found the college approach more useful due to the educational rather than corporate way it worked with learners.
And he found TyneMet to be “very open, embracing and responsible”.
When you speak to the college, you get the sense they are listening; with private companies, it’s a sense they’re trying to get what they want out of it. The college offer is completely relevant to us, because of the nature of bespoke work they’ve done with us. They recognise where we are and where we want to get to. I would do it again and recommend it to other employers. When I’ve spoken to peers in different industries, there’s a disconnect between what the offer is [from colleges] and how the partnership actually works. We need more projects like this and more networking to solve the problems.