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Glass company sees a clearer picture with toolkit


County Durham is leading the way in workforce development with a unique on-line 'toolkit', designed to help small and medium sized companies become more competitive.

The Training Needs Analysis (TNA) Toolkit, known as DEVA and launched on Friday 30 June, has a dedicated web-site ( with on-line mentoring as well as a paper version for companies unable to access the website. Using a set of individual business analysis modules it provides the company with a workforce development action plan and has been developed by Business Link County Durham with funding from the European Social Fund.

Three County Durham companies have already used the paper version of the toolkit on a trial basis and it has passed with flying colours. For George Stephenson, General Manager of Peterlee Glass Company, it has given them an extremely valuable overview of the whole business.

"It has helped us to recognise the company's strengths and future market opportunities as well as our current skill levels," he said. "We are currently in the middle of an £800,000 expansion programme which will add another 10 employees to our workforce of 28 and are confident that the toolkit will continue to help us in the future."

The company's expertise in architectural glass takes their designer glass staircases, furniture and stained glass features into designer homes, shops and offices in the USA, the Middle East and Japan as well as across Europe. Peterlee Glass was set up in 1977 and the experienced workforce has helped it to establish a world-wide reputation not only for architectural glass but also for designer glass furniture, glazing, mirrors and stained glass.

Hercules Securities and Helmsman Cubicles, both based in Bishop Auckland, also trialed the paper version of the Deva toolkit and were equally as enthusiastic.

Workforce development, which includes managers as well as other employees, is seen as a key factor in improving the region's economy. Companies are facing increasing pressure from the government to look at their skills base and development with smaller companies being encouraged to follow the lead of larger businesses.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said recently: "In today's increasingly competitive world, the most successful nations of the future will be those which develop a high quality, skilled and motivated workforce and make good use of it. It is this belief which underpins the government's drive to raise the nation's skills levels and encourage workforce development – partly by harnessing the commitment and enthusiasm of British business.

"More and more employers are coming to recognise the importance of training as a key business task, not an optional one. But, as training becomes more of a priority, so does the need to invest wisely," he added.

Business Link County Durham is only too aware of the many pressures on small and medium sized businesses and their need for support in this area. The new toolkit will be actively used by BLCD and its partners to identify an organisation's training needs. It now forms an important part of the Business Link County Durham product portfolio available to SMEs in the county to enable them to invest wisely in training. It will promote the need to match training needs to business objectives, as a key strategy to meet future business objectives which will be identified and formalised by the toolkit.

Business Link is now identifying a further 20 companies across County Durham who will trial the on-line version of the toolkit. A bulletin page will also link the companies into additional related workforce news.

Tom Brown, a business adviser at Business Link County Durham, said that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have less access to in-house human resource expertise compared to larger organisations and can lose the broader picture because they are coping with the demanding, short-term needs of the business.

"Investment in human resources is as important as investment in technology or machinery and businesses need highly competent managers and workforces more than ever", she said. "The toolkit is an innovative and creative project and an important development for SMEs. It identifies specific training needs using industry standards and a business can work on the modules at their own pace with on-line mentoring support that provides a quick response to queries or problems. The toolkit is designed to evolve with the business and allows everyone to have an input which benefits a company at all levels.

Elaine Leong


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