An important factor in company level productivity in the UK is the skill set of entry-level workers. Employers invest in the skills of new entrants as an alternative to hiring more experienced people, partly on grounds of cost but also for the opportunity to shape ways of working around specific technologies and processes and particular company values.
Getting this right is a strategic imperative for companies like Nestlé, with half of the sector's current workforce due to retire in the next two decades. There risks being a short- term productivity impact over this period as basic workplace skills and behaviours are learned – unless the basics are better established by the general education system. This can be mitigated by earlier identification and training of potential employees still in formal education, and broadening the talent pool by promoting STEM subjects.
However, this role for the education system does not remove the crucial role of employers in taking responsibility for their own talent pipeline, whether at a company or a sectoral/supply chain level. This means engaging with schools and colleges in the design of curricula, as well as reaching out to students to highlight potential career opportunities.
As well as increasing participation in government endorsed models for workplace learning, such as apprenticeships, companies like Nestlé are also investing in their own in-house training. Some of Nestlé’s own factories are accredited as Further Education providers in their own right. Nestlé’s role in designing Trailblazer apprenticeships standards shows recognition that getting the quality of training right will be crucial for increasing demand among young people, and consequently for meeting the target of three million apprenticeships by 2020.
There are also promising signs that competitive pressure on FE colleges is paying off in a greater responsiveness to employers’ needs and interest in genuinely partnering with employers. Ambitious savings targets for Further Education colleges will require businesses to step in to help maintain quality and coverage, but this in turn will require businesses to take greater responsibility for guiding and directing training providers as part of developing their long-term talent pipelines.