2023 has been challenging for business so far, but a new poll of SMEs in England from the Join the Skills Revolution campaign reveals that they still expect to see a 26% (on average) growth in revenue this year.
The optimism for growth for the year ahead is positive, and there are many options available for businesses looking to plug skills gaps in a cost effective way that will help them to reach their 2023 ambitions. SMEs can look towards options they may not have previously considered when it comes to bolstering skills. Being open to exploring new ways to meet business demands and strengthen workforces will be crucial.
The reasons for the demand for staff with new skillsets varies from business to business. Many, for example, will be conscious of the continued need for a rapid digital transformation, meaning that new primary skills are required from their workforce. During the pandemic, businesses had to adapt swiftly, accelerating their use of technology to ensure operations could continue whilst working remotely – and many businesses across the board will be continuing to utilise this way of operating.
Join the Skills Revolution research data reflects this demand – 43% of SMEs are planning to invest in digital skills. Upskilling has real benefits to employee satisfaction, and in a competitive job market, this can be an economic way to be more attractive to potential recruits. Knowing they will be invested in, and that there are future personal growth opportunities is a big selling point to job applicants. Providing upskilling opportunities has become an important indicator of demonstrating the value you place on your workforce, and applicants will be aware of this.
As well as upskilling their existing staff, SMEs are also open to exploring options they may not have previously considered, when it comes to bolstering skills from both within and through recruiting new staff. Over a quarter (27%) are seeking to hire from broad education routes such as apprentices and T Levels students. When asked how the new individuals they plan to take on will impact the business, many felt it would do so beyond the responsibilities of the role. For instance, 53% of Healthcare SMEs and 44% of Technology SMEs think additional staff will help upskill the existing workforce (by sharing skills and knowledge), 42% of those in Manufacturing say it will improve wider staff productivity and 41% of Construction SMEs say it will improve staff morale.
Businesses who are considering hiring employees can access a variety of training and employment schemes. These schemes can help to attract a range of talent and keep a steady pipeline of talent coming into the business. All the schemes have their own unique benefits so understanding the options available will be important for employers. The Join the Skills Revolution campaign aims to help SMEs understand the training and employment schemes available to them.
One option is hosting T Level students on industry placement, for 45 days. T Levels are beneficial to both parties – businesses benefit by nurturing skills they need for now and the future, whilst the students benefit from the technical experience they need to forge their chosen career path.
Apprenticeships are another option – available to individuals over the age of 16, and lasting for a minimum of 12 months. Apprentices don’t always have to be new recruits and may instead be existing employees, moulded to deliver the skills your business needs.
Alternatively, if your business wants to focus on upskilling staff in one particular area, then a Skills Bootcamp may be more appropriate. These are flexible training courses for those aged 19 and over to fast-track specialist skill development, for existing or new talent for your business. They take place over a shorter space of time but, like apprenticeships, still provide an opportunity for existing staff to master new skills.
Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs)are new and existing level 4 and 5 qualifications (such as HNCs, HNDs and Foundation Degrees) that suit both new recruits and existing employees. Taught at further education colleges, universities, or by independent training providers HTQs can be studied flexibly full or part-time to suit learners and employers. HTQs in digital occupations are now being taught in a variety of subjects leading to careers such as network engineer, software developer and data analyst. From September 2023, new HTQs in construction and health and science will also be available.
Multiply numeracy courses are free numeracy initiatives, offers and courses from pre-entry to level 2 for those aged 19 and over in the workforce. Multiply allows employers to build the skills of their current or future employees with low numeracy skills, creating a talented workforce with improved numeracy skills.
To find training and employment schemes for your business, as well as support on how to implement these, visit HERE