Our voice of business this month is:

John Browning, Workforce Skills Manager, Bucks Skills Hub.

I joined Bucks Skills Hub at the end of August as Workforce Skills Manager. I was born and raised in Bucks and I have lived here most of my life and have a background in training and vocational education – I have spent many years running apprenticeship schemes in large organisations and several years in sector skills councils developing and promoting vocational training and apprenticeships. I have also worked as a consultant advising businesses big and small on their learning and development and skills needs.

My role is to work alongside Business Advisers to support businesses with their skills needs – understanding their skills needs and helping them to find suitable training solutions, for example taking advantage of funded skills programmes, which will benefit their businesses including apprenticeships and traineeships or in supporting them with recruitment and specialised training needs. I also work closely with education and training providers to ensure training provision in the County matches demand from businesses.

Right now, however, my immediate priority is the response to Covid-19 and in particular how we can support businesses who may unfortunately have to make redundancies and how we can support individuals who have been made redundant or who are facing the threat of redundancy. It can be very difficult to know where to start if you are in this situation: what should your first actions be?  Where can you go for advice?  Who can provide support?

Our first action has been to pull together, in one web page, all the information on what support and services are available in Bucks for businesses and individuals. This includes:

  • Where you can get guidance on the redundancy process,
  • Where to go for legal advice and what offers are available from Buckinghamshire Business First members e.g. we have several members offering outplacement services,
  • What services are available to support the health and well-being of your staff,
  • What advice and guidance are available for individuals, including careers advice, CV and interview preparation, training courses and where to look for job opportunities – most of this is free.

So this web page is a great place to start if you are in the difficult position of having to make redundancies: www.bbf.uk.com/business-support/category/redundancy-support

There is a lot of great material available for free, for example there is a lot of free advice available from Jobs Plus More and ACAS – what are the rules on giving notice and how does redundancy pay work?  For retraining the Bucks College Group offers free courses for career changers.

Looking to the future we need to address some of the skills issues that are regularly identified by Bucks businesses, for example better preparing young people for work and improving digital skills for everyone. Starting in 2021 we will see the introduction of T Levels, which are the technical equivalent of A Levels for students age 16-19 who have already taken their GCSEs. They will provide a fantastic alternative for people who wish to pursue a vocational route into skilled employment. Designed by employers, they feature 45 days of work experience in order properly to prepare young people for work. Bucks Skills Hub will be looking to employers in Bucks to get behind these new qualifications and offer work placements to students studying these revolutionary new programmes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen many of us working from home for the first time and discovering the benefits modern communications technology, such as videoconferencing, can have for our work-life balance. Businesses have also been discovering the productivity benefits of this technology. Advances in technology such as 5G and the Buckinghamshire Digital Strategy will see this technology in use by more and more businesses resulting in substantial growth, business success and employment. It will also emphasise the need to improve everybody’s skills in order to get the most from it. So, over the next few years we will be developing a digital skills strategy for the County in order to support businesses and individuals to profit from the opportunities it brings.

To support businesses with immediate training needs we will be introducing workshops on how to develop a learning and development strategy and employing apprentices, and any business is free to contact me directly at john.browning@bucksskillshub.org with any training-related enquiry.