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Scottish Business Voice: Harnessing Our Talent Is Essential for Business Success

Posted: 17th April 2015

The Scottish Business Voice Campaign, led by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network, will present a series of Business Asks to inform the role politicians can play to build on Scotland’s key industry sectors.
Today, Scottish Chambers of Commerce puts forward the Business Asks to Invest in Scotland’s Talent.

Scottish Business calls for:

• An extension in the provision of childcare by 2016 to help parents continue in and return to employment:
o Guaranteed funded and flexible childcare provision of at least 30 hours a week, 52 weeks of the year, tailored to parents’ needs.
o Guaranteed provision of pre and after school clubs to ensure that wrap-around care is available for every child.

Language Skills:
• International languages of business must be mandatory in the education curriculum from Primary 1 onwards, otherwise there will remain major barriers to developing internationalisation in Scotland and keeping ahead of our competitors.
• Opportunities for overseas study must become mandatory for university degrees by 2020.
• Major new retraining opportunities for existing language teachers to match Scotland’s international growth agenda.

Modern Apprenticeships:
• Implementation of a Modern Apprenticeship incentive package, as recommended by the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce to reduce the cost of employing apprentices for smaller and micro businesses, with an emphasis placed on skills shortages and economic need, delivered by 2016.

• A major review in identifying degree courses which could be reduced from four to three years being implemented by 2017
• Mandatory inclusion of work placements and overseas study being phased in as part of the accreditation process by 2020.

International Students:
• For the UK Government to adopt a more flexible attitude to post-study work visas by 2016 in order that we can take full advantage of the interest in Scotland’s world class universities shown by talented, high potential individuals from across the world, building up their business interest and connections in Scotland.

Careers Information/Advice:
• To reform the Careers Services by 2017, driven by an effective working alliance between business and Skills Development Scotland, ensuring skills shortages in STEM subjects are clearly understood and eliminated by 2020.
• A Stronger focus on the newly created Invest in Youth Panels to enable them to eliminate skills shortages by 2020 across all business critical areas.

Work Experience:
• The compulsory inclusion of an in-industry or business work experience programme starting from S1, which forms part of a student’s curriculum, and is recognised with an accreditation that has been created in collaboration with both business and education, by 2018.

Workplace Training:
• Businesses which invest in upskilling and retraining staff should be rewarded with tax breaks to either Business Rates or Employer’s National Insurance Contributions.
Liz Cameron OBE, Director and Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“Any business is only as good as its people. That is why it is absolutely essential that our Governments put education and skills first and ensure that our businesses have access to the best possible pool of talent. That means getting things right from pre-school all the way through to university and beyond, recognising the need for parity of esteem for vocational training and taking full advantage of Scotland’s ability to attract talent from across the globe.

“Getting the skills mix right underpins our whole economy and starts at an early age. Cementing languages of international business into the curriculum from Primary 1 right through to the end of secondary education and into further and higher education will help to create an outward looking culture that will support our international trade ambitions – an employee attribute valued highly by Scottish business. Providing effective links between secondary schools and businesses will deliver the information that young people need to make informed career choices and delivering parity of esteem between vocational and academic education will help businesses to access the right talent when they need it, eliminating skills shortages across all business critical areas. We should not be in the position we are right now, with a distinct lack of digital and exporting skills – two key areas which, unless we identify urgent solutions, are already creating barriers to economic growth.

“We must also have a seamless progression from childcare to education that helps to minimise the time that parents need to spend outside of the workforce. Scotland has led the way in helping to make childcare more affordable for parents but it is not yet either universal or flexible enough to make the decision to continue in or return to work, within an ever changing business environment, an easy one.

“Last year, a Commission led by Sir Ian Wood made a raft of practical and sensible recommendations to improve the links between business and education in Scotland. Chambers of Commerce are leading the way in putting these ideas into practice and we need to stick to the principles of the report. If the private sector truly take ownership and leadership of this process, then we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to inform young people about tomorrow’s jobs in a consistent manner and skills shortages could be eliminated in just a few years.

“We must also develop and enhance the skills of those already in the workforce. This will require investment by business and government can play its part by providing tax breaks, either through Business Rates or Employers’ National Insurance, to firms which can demonstrate that they are investing in building up the skill sets of employees.

“Whilst we must have a focus on our domestic skills, we must not forget the positive role that overseas talent can have in our economy. We believe that the reintroduction of a generous Post Study Work visa in Scotland could help to take further advantage of the international attraction of our several world class universities to ensure that more of tomorrow’s global business leaders gain experience and connections in Scotland.”

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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