By Michael Divers


Bold HR


The outcome of Lord Heseltine’s independent review into UK’s competitiveness has been generally welcomed by all sides of the political spectrum.

In his report ‘No Stone Unturned in Pursuit of Growth’, he argues that bold action is urgently needed to stimulate economic growth and this includes genuine commitment to developing solutions to meet the needs of communities and radical reform of Whitehall. There has been some criticism, however, that his report focuses too much on institutional restructure rather than addressing the constraints facing the economy head on such as the availability of finance and the need to improve supporting infrastructure.

The one area that has really struck a chord with people is his view that employers must have a much greater role in educating young people and making them ready for the workplace. He argues that local employers need to be more engaged in shaping the skills that young people develop so these are more relevant to their needs.

Great stuff! He wants the skills development system to be more responsive to the needs of local employers and calls for apprenticeship funding to be devolved locally rather than be managed centrally. Higher education, he says, urgently needs to work more closely with business if we are to effectively compete on the world stage and grow our global market share. It’s somewhat depressing that Lord Heseltine was asked by the Government to undertake this ‘root and branch’ review of how best to restore economic growth and they now want time to reflect on his 89 recommendations before deciding how they should proceed.

Anyone taking the trouble to talk to businesses about the challenges they face, will hear first hand that finding and retaining exceptional talent is a high priority and a major challenge for them. Focusing on our key growth sectors – food and drink manufacturing, retail, digital media, the creative industries, financial services and high technology manufacturing – is the obvious place to start.

What skills will these businesses need if they are to fulfill their potential, create the new jobs we desperately need and become true global leaders?

Getting employers engaged in this debate is essential. If we don’t, the risk of continued mismatch between what the education system produces and what businesses needs will seriously hinder our recovery and this is something we may never recover from.