01 April 2008
Skills and the common man and woman
by John Whitley
Common man? Moi! Surely not. I am reaching the final straight in a long and varied career and even now, when I am long of tooth and round of belly, I find myself having to adapt and learn constantly. It is not true that the more senior you are the less you need training. The challenges get more complex; timeframes for learning shrink and expectations grow. Lifelong learning may have become a hackneyed phrase but believe me when I say that it is essential for all of us in the increasingly demanding World of Work.
This is the very "raison d’etre" of the Publishing Training Centre, and it is one of the fundamental factors behind our engagement with the Government agenda for Skills in the workplace. Governments of all hues have long recognised the need for UK Plc to have a highly trained and effective workforce in order to compete in Global markets. It is why the education debates are so vehemently argued and initiatives so regularly introduced. We must strive for constant improvement, and improvement requires change.
The real skill is to identify the right changes and introduce them in the most effective way. To quote John Harvey Jones for a moment, he hypothesised that for businesses to be successful they must change "at the maximum sustainable rate", and this surely applies to regional and national economies as much as it does to individual business units.
The government agenda for skills in the workplace is relevant to publishers on several levels, and we ignore it at our peril. Through the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) engagement is sought with employers and employees in all industries and professions, through associations, unions, corporations and other representative bodies. The agenda, at its simplest, seeks to identify and map routes into careers as well as skills and qualifications requirements both before and during those careers.
With this information supply of skills training and education can be compared with demand and gaps identified and plugged.
Put like this I’m sure most right-minded publishers would agree that it would be foolish to ignore the initiative. After all, they are not being asked to pay for any of this, and there is no three-line-whip forcing them to take up the training once it is designed and available. Yet suspicion remains, based on past experiences of failed initiatives, (in book publishing the legacy of the aborted NVQs still lingers on) superficial research and offerings that made little difference.
The Publishing Training Centre will continue to represent the interests of its clients, and especially book and journal publishers, within the SSC network. We are working with Skillset to make the agenda a reality and we will be seeking the engagement of our constituency to help with research and skills needs. I really hope that publishers can set aside their concerns and help us to deliver realistic and meaningful results that will help us all to deliver the results we crave.