Leadership degree boost for business

AN INNOVATIVE Foundation Degree course is helping Suffolk to buck the national trend of employers complaining of skills shortages despite rising unemployment, says Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

According to a new national report, entitled Skills for Business: More to Learn?, nearly half of businesses are finding it hard to recruit the right staff while only a fifth of firms have taken on an apprentice in the last year.

The report also showed that 45% of businesses are very or fairly confident in recruiting graduates while just 29% felt similarly about recruiting a school-leaver with A-levels or equivalent.

“At a time of concern for UK plc and with unemployment at over 2.5million it is frustrating that business is finding it challenging to recruit the right staff,” said Suffolk chamber chief cxecutive John Dugmore.

“We feel those pressures here in Suffolk too but we can and should be encouraged that we have structures in place that are helping us to buck this national trend.”

These structures, he says, include the Foundation Degree, a new qualification which is giving young people a Cert HE and FdA in Leadership and Management.

It is based at the University Campus Suffolk Business School and is a two-year programme which will provide a practical and theoretical qualification, focused on workforce development needs for employees currently working in an organisation.

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Two of the young people on the course met with Mr Dugmore recently to look at the results of the research and discuss how Suffolk is working to deal with the skills issue.

Sarah Allison is 27 years old, born and bred in Woodbridge, and as an administration assistant is working hard to build her skills to attract future employers.

“I am passionate about improving my skills and being a business leader of tomorrow,” said Sarah, who as part of the course is learning skills in finance and human resources.

“There is a shortage of people out there who can fill the roles employer want and it’s important that more people like me get on this course and get the skills they and our economy needs.”

Tom Parrish, who is also 27, lives in Ipswich and works in the leisure industry. “I used to be someone who stumbled through work and struggled to find the confidence to move forward,” said Tom, who is financing himself through the course. “I did realise that I needed to work on my skills and build on them so I can achieve a great deal more and give what many employers need – commitment and a skill set suitable for the modern job market.”

Mr Dugmore said: “The Foundation Degree is evidence that here in Suffolk people are working hard to buck the national trend that we see evident in this week’s national research.

“Young people like Sarah and Tom are working hard, developing their skills such as change management, presentation and financial skills and giving future employers in our county what they need. There is always more to do but as a chamber we are getting right behind this important initiative.”