Proskills has succeeded in its bid to establish a National Skills Academy (NSA). The Sector Skills Council for the processing and manufacturing industries, which includes the building products sector, will now move forward to establish a business plan for the future NSA.
The development is part of the UK Government’s broader policy to improve and deliver employer-led vocational training across a range of industries. The Proskills Building Products Group, which comprises representatives from Baggeridge Brick, Ibstock Brick, Marley Eternit and Hanson, among others, have been consulted on Proskills’ plans.
‘The NSA offers the opportunity for industry to develop a strong position through influencing the content and delivery of training [and], more significantly, [through supported] funding mechanisms, which has not happened to date,’ says NSA Project Director at Proskills Ray Snowdon.
It is envisaged that ‘training pods’ will allow regional and local groups of employers to commission and deliver training, and, where possible, share learning material and resources. This would be particularly useful for SMEs or geographically isolated businesses that do not have the resources to secure training for their staff, or rely on the quality of external training bodies.
Snowdon explains, ‘Firms can secure improved funding by aggregating demand geographically. Employers in different areas will have different requirements.’ Furthermore, in-house training schemes could become nationally accredited.
The NSA is the delivery vehicle for the sector skills agreement between Proskills and industry. The building products sector requires new skills, improved technical awareness and management training, and increased multi-skilling in response to automation, EU and UK legislation on land use, energy efficiency and waste, and changing health and safety legislation. Over a third of employers surveyed by Proskills believe that the skills required by technical and managerial staff are changing annually or faster.
Chris Scott, Human Resources Manager at Marley Eternit, a UK-based manufacturer and supplier of roofing solutions, echoes this position, ‘The NSA will give us a far more focused opportunity to provide and identify training for our sector. [On the plant floor] we are moving from semi-skilled to a more technical environment. For example, before you might have had people picking products off the production line and putting then into pallets. Now we are using robotics. So we need someone more skilled to operate the overall system. The academy could help to ensure more specialist courses.’
Snowdon also hopes the NSA, which is expected to be up and running by Autumn 2008, will attract new talent to the industry, as well as help current employees forge a career path. He says, ‘The added visibility will serve to attract higher-skilled workers into the industry as a career of ‘first choice’ – the NSA can provide an umbrella for apprenticeships and training, particularly when we have the Manufacturing and Product Design Diploma for 14-19-year-olds [due to come into force in September 2009].’
The NSA from Proskills will be a separate body to the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing, which was launched by the Sector Skills Council for Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies in January. This academy focuses more on the transport and civil engineering industries.