An alternative to organising potentially expensive outsourced training is to attempt on-the-job training. For many years 'sitting by Nellie' had a bad name in training and development circles.
It was seen as a way for tight-fisted employers to justify not spending money on proper training by 'getting Fred to show you how to do it.'
In recent years, however, work-based training has acquired a new respectability. One reason has been the introduction of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and the second is a realisation that properly conducted work-based learning can be much more effective than learning delivered out of context.
Graduate Apprenticeships offer free tuition for employees in small enterprises who study part-time for an HND or degree.
In recent years, the government has also introduced and expanded Employer Training Pilots across the UK. The scheme allows small firms to release staff for training, with bosses compensated for their temporary loss.
This tackles one of the main barriers to training in startups – traditionally they couldn’t afford to allow workers to take time off because of the knock-on loss to the business.
The Pilots are aimed at basic skills deficiencies – and with UK firms losing an estimated £4.8 billion due to poor staff literacy and numeracy, it could well be worth looking at the scheme once you have recruited. The success of the programme (7,500 employers signed up in the first 18 months) prompted Gordon Brown to announce the expansion of the scheme in the 2004 Budget.
There are other ways in which your employees can get qualified without losing them to an educational establishment – for instance, City & Guilds has more that 500 qualifications in 28 industry areas at a range of entry points. City & Guilds also offers an apprenticeship scheme that has taken on over one million young workers since 1994. The programme is open to anyone aged between 16 and 24.
“Qualifications themselves are not important, it’s the skills themselves,” Ben Knight, from City & Guilds told Startups.co.uk. “Courses can really help you, you know that’s the norm before you start up.
“It saves you having to rely on trial and error as you are going to someone who has experience several rungs further up the business ladder. Things that would take you ages to work out can be understood right away – courses can save you time and give you a real headstart.”
Knight feels that such courses are vital in addressing the lack of skills in UK businesses and advises firms to consider releasing staff for training.
“There must be more emphasis given to vocational training by the government, most of the focus is currently given to theoretical learning,” he says.
”A lot of youngsters are advised badly at 16 years old and told that A-Levels are best for them, rather than doing something vocational. Training is often seen as a secondary choice and more needs to be done to encourage young people to take it up.
“Having said that, there is so much more being done in schools than 20 years ago. There are entrepreneur classes taking place in schools now.
“Like many other aspects of your business, training is about remaining competitive. You’d be competitive about your website and the products you offer, so why not the ability of your staff? You need to invest in the skills of your employees.”
For information on work-based training such as NVQs, Modern Apprenticeships and National Traineeships – all of which can attract government funding, contact your local Tec.
Other useful bodies to approach for help are the National Training Organisations (NTOs). These are industry-specific bodies that can provide a useful source of information and advice. To find out the right one for your industry visit www.nto-nc.org
Modern Apprenticeships - http://etp.lsc.gov.uk/
City & Guilds - www.city-and-guilds.co.uk