Lee Lucas on using education as a tool for the future.
By Lee Lucas
In the six years that I have led Holts Academy, the educational landscape of the jewellery industry has changed so enormously as to make it almost unrecognisable to when I started out.
One of the biggest changes outside of the academy has been the recession and its effect on every business. It was Benjamin Franklin who first coined the phrase time is money. It is a well-known saying, and in the current economic climate it is perhaps more relevant than ever as businesses strive to be as productive as possible.
There’s the added issue of skills shortages, and if businesses don’t make sure their staff have the right skills then business efficiency can be affected and, ultimately, profits may suffer.
Some sectors are bearing the brunt of massive skills shortages. A survey by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) found one in three vacancies for some trades were hard to fill because of skills shortages among applicants. Skilled trades in sectors such as manufacturing, wholesale and retail are the worst affected, with employers experiencing the greatest difficulty in meeting demand for job-specific skills as well as softer skills such as organisation, problem solving and team working.
The impact of a talent shortage can be devastating in a recession. According to the UKCES survey, those organisations experiencing skills shortages reported an increase in workload for their staff, risking a negative effect on morale and staff retention. They also reported struggling to meet customer service objectives, delaying development of new products and services and losing business to competitors. These businesses will struggle to grow and develop without the right skills.
Despite these challenges, the skills outlook over the next five to 10 years is good. Skills are high on the government agenda. To ensure the outlook remains positive, we need a skills system that can respond to the challenges it faces. Vocational qualifications and apprenticeships, which give people the experience and job-specific skills needed, are key to addressing the skills shortages, particularly in those sectors where the shortages are most pronounced. That’s why Holts Academy team has worked tirelessly to develop and pioneer a raft of new qualifications and apprenticeships in manufacture, CAD/CAM, retail and creative subjects.
These and other qualifications need to be underpinned by a continued focus on supporting an industry and inspiring new talent to enter. Using vocational training and apprenticeships like those offered by Holts Academy, I believe the UK can come through this economic downturn. The missing ingredient now is you, the employers large and small who will make a stand, make a commitment to the future of our industry, to pass on the skills, to inspire a generation.
This guest column was taken from the January 2013 issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. If you work within the British jewellery industry and would like to write a column for the magazine then email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org with an outline of your idea.