Sat, Jan

IR talks to ... Richard Moore, Proskills

Richard Moore is print and paper industry lead at Proskills, which has undergone significant changes this summer.

Proskills ceased to be Sector Skills Council (SSC) at the end of last month, a move that followed an earlier restructure and the departure of chief executive Terry Watts in the spring. Since then we’ve also seen the departure of interim CEO Tom Bowtell. So just what is the new look Proskills all about and what’s it doing for print?

IR: Richard, given the amount of change Proskills has undergone so far in 2012, there’s some confusion as to how the changed structure affects the print sector. Can you clarify its core role in relation to this industry?

RM: Its commitment and role with regards to the print sector has not changed. Proskills will continue forward as a Standards Setting Organisation (SSO) and National Skills Academy (NSA). As a SSO, Proskills will continue to review and update occupational standards and develop new qualifications for both print and paper.

IR: It is not widely known that Proskills is also responsible for the National Occupational Standards for Health and Safety across all sectors and that remains unchanged, as does Proskills’ role as an Apprenticeship Certificate issuing authority. Proskills is a partner in two SSC consortiums that won qualifications development funds under the UKCES Universal Services contract.

RM: As a company we are more focussed than ever on helping print companies generate the impact they need for a sustainable future and we shall retain our intimate relationship with the print and paper industries in order to drive demand for training and qualifications, delivered via our NSA accredited provider network, help employers access funding and promote the industries to young people across the UK as well as to Government and its ministerial departments.

Proskills will help employers access available funding to help support their training and to create the next generation of vocational qualifications.

Proskills has submitted three bids into the new Employer Ownership Funds and is already starting work on the Universal Services funding round for 2013/14 to ensure the industries have the qualifications they deserve.

IR: When Proskills announced it was relinquishing its Sector Skills Council (SSC) licence in June 2012, it said it was to allow it to put more resources into “the core offer demanded from employers”. How do you garner that information from the print sector?

RM: Proskills wants to focus exclusively on employer’s key needs and to continue to work in partnership with other SSCs, SSOs, National Skills Academies, Awarding Organisations and other such bodies to develop innovative and cost effective high quality skills solutions which better fit the demanding requirements of the employers it represents.

A huge amount of employer-based research has already occurred so in many ways we are now in the delivery phase.

IR: What has the organisation identified as the core demands of print bosses and how does Proskills aim to improve its offering accordingly?

RM: The key asks from the Industry are: to develop, review and uphold standards in apprenticeships, vocational qualifications and review and develop National Occupational Standards; to develop and run educational programmes for schools to raise the sector’s image and produce sector specific careers information; and to ensure there is an adequate network of provision - where possible access funding for training for the sector and to be a trusted source of information and solutions on skills and training for both employers and employees.

IR: I understand that PrintIt! (which twins print companies with schools to raise the profile of print careers) will continue. Is that the case? And do you seeing it changing to more fully represent the whole gamut of career opportunities within print?

RM: While the print industry continues to support this initiative the programme will continue. It is designed to teach young people about the exciting world of printing and its related industries as well as changing any misconceptions they may have about the industry’s effect on the environment.

The programme entails students researching and designing products using techniques and materials which are sustainable. The programme is mapped to relevant parts of the 14-19 curriculum, plus schools have the opportunity to twin with print companies to learn a bit more.

The programme is revised and developed continually to ensure that it continues to raise awareness of the print and paper industry in the UK including career opportunities and environmental issues. Over 130,000 students have taken part so far and research has shown that 68% of students are now looking for work experience in the print industry and 31% expressed an interest in working in print after taking part in PrintIt!

With support from industry, we hope that the programme can be used for potential apprentices from which the industry can recruit.

IR: What else is Proskills doing to tell the wider audience about the breath of potential careers in print?

RM: I agree that there is a vast array of potential career paths. Through the Print Skills Academy website those interested can discover more by looking at the Print Careers ladder or our Prospect4u page plus access some interesting videos and a wealth of other information. Proskills will also continue to disseminate careers information to schools and through career events. These are constantly being updated and added to and we would welcome further input from industry.

We also have good links with the new National Careers Service and the National Apprenticeship Service and so much effort goes into ensuring that print industries are well represented to young and more mature potential entrants.

IR: How do you measure the success of the Proskills led Print Skills Academy, and how should we expect to see that develop?

RM: The Print Skills Academy is a Web-based resource that brings together all that is specific to print training and operates as the main entry point for industry to our NSA for Material Production and Supply (MPS).

The overarching aim of NSA MPS is to bring employers together with specialist training organisations to develop and deliver solutions which tackle the skills challenges facing the industry. It is focused on transforming the way the industry’s training and development needs are addressed. NSA MPS works closely with a wide range of quality assured industry specific and generic training providers, colleges and universities to deliver programmes which have a real impact on business and which provide a platform on which sustainability can be grown.

Of course this can all be measured via a range of business metrics but my personal dream is one where all print business owners understand that a fully trained and educated workforce is a prerequisite for survival and prosperity.

The NSA is working hard with employers on bidding for and implementing a range of skills programmes supported by Government funding and is accepted as a central skills body by Government departments.

IR: Proskills has said it will continue its role as an Apprenticeship Issuing Authority in England. What is its stance on print apprenticeships?

RM: Proskills would like to see all businesses take on apprentices. They are great for young people and fantastic for business and the wider economy.

As work-based training programmes, designed around the needs of the employer, apprenticeships lead to nationally recognised qualifications. Both new intake and existing employees can be trained in this way, but only 16-18 year olds are guaranteed to be fully funded for the training element (employers are still liable for wages and expense costs such as travel), while those aged 19 and over might be as much as 50% co-funded.

Print apprentices work towards either Intermediate (Level 2) or Advanced (Level 3) apprenticeships (though Higher Apprenticeships are also possible in other sectors).

Print is an industry which needs to recognise its urgent need of new blood and print apprenticeships can bring many benefits. The mixture of on and off job learning ensures apprentices learn the skills that work best for their employers. Employing apprentices can also be more cost effective for a business than employing skilled staff. And a typical apprentice is also very keen to do well and can actually motivate other staff. 

The LSC 2008 survey found that 77% of employers believe apprenticeships make them more competitive; 76% say that apprenticeships provide higher overall productivity and 80% feel that apprenticeships reduce staff turnover.

IR: Proskills recently started work on the Universal Services funding round for 2013/14 to ensure that certain industries have the future business critical qualifications they need and deserve. What does this mean, if anything, for print specifically?

This contestable funding is vital to support the review and development of the national occupational standards required to develop qualifications. A massive amount of work has already been completed on print standards and qualifications and as a result, there is a large suite of qualifications available and a choice of awarding bodies. 

Print is not a static industry so national occupational standards have to be regularly reviewed to keep up-to-date with new technology and the demand for new products and services. The current work includes looking specifically at Scottish Qualifications in Print.

Of course developing a bid to some degree is the easy part, we need employers to take up these qualifications, inform us of changes and proactively participate in qualifications development and maintenance.

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