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Call for more leadership training to plug skills gap


A professional management body has called on employers to commit to investing in leadership training as a national priority in order to spearhead a return to sustained economic growth.
The plea from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) followed the launch of a public consultation on Northern Ireland’s skills strategy by Minister for Employment and Learning, Sir Reg Empey, which is outlined in the ‘Success through Skills 2’ document.
The document examines the region’s current skills base, explores what expertise is needed to grow the local economy and highlights areas for potential action.
Empey said at the launch event yesterday: “The recent downturn has taken its toll on Northern Ireland, both economically and socially. However, by committing to a continuous process of increasing our skills levels, we can, and indeed must, build a modern, knowledge-based workforce that will set ourselves apart from other regions and countries.”
It was only by such action that Northern Ireland could hope to exploit opportunities provided by the economic upturn, he added.
Into the future, however, taking action on skills may become even more important. By 2020, it is forecast that as few as 10% of jobs will require no formal qualifications and as many as 52% will require qualifications at level four and above.
But one of the key differences between the current proposed skills strategy and the first one that was published in 2004 is a focus on up-skilling the existing workforce. Because a large proportion of the 2020 employees are already past compulsory school age, the aim is to ensure that training bodies, colleges and universities work more closely with employers to help equip staff with the skills required.
The CMI welcomed the views expressed by Empey and said that they reflected the findings of its own report entitled ‘Value of Management Qualifications’. This study revealed that 81% of respondents in Northern Ireland believed that management qualifications would grow in importance between now and 2012.
Just over three quarters acknowledged that a desire to gain ‘transferable skills’ lay behind hopes of becoming more qualified, while 86% felt that having a management qualification under their belt improved their prospects for promotion.
Narinder Uppal, head of the CMI’s qualification awarding body, said: “Who you know is no longer enough to get ahead at work. What increasingly matters to employers – and individuals – is currency of knowledge and proof of ability.”
But only one in five managers currently held a professional qualification, a situation that was “unhelpful at best and untenable at worst”, she added.
Because underperformance and skills gaps were still too widespread, the CMI therefore called on employers and managers to take responsibility for their own development and that of their staff.
“Only by fostering a culture in which managers and leaders are accountable, organised and professionally qualified will we be in a position to prosper as the economy turns the corner,” Uppal said.

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