As I See It

Link levy with academies to beat skills crisis

Terry smiling headOne common theme in the many surveys on business prospects is a concern over skills shortages, though it’s not for the want of efforts to tackle the problem.

Among the more successful programmes is the CodeClan Academy which launched in Edinburgh in 2015 to retrain workers from a variety of backgrounds in skills demanded by the digital industries.

This 16-week course is fast-tracking a new army of coders and has plugged a big gap in the growth of this new sector. More than 90% of its graduates find work within five months.

It’s a win-win for those looking to get back into the workplace, or change career, and for companies looking to fill vital vacancies. It has also sparked calls for a widening of vocational training across the country.

CodeClan’s chief executive Melinda Matthews Clarkson announced on her appointment in December that she wanted to take its courses beyond the Central Belt. The Glasgow facility is moving to new premises in order to expand, Stirling, already home to an offshoot of the Codebase tech incubator, must surely be among the favourites for a CodeClan base as it makes a big push to become a new technology centre.

Ms Matthews Clarkson wants to expand the programme into other digital fields, including analytics, and there have been demands for the government to back the academy idea beyond the digital sector.

Back in 2016 the Federation of Small Businesses called for the CodeClan initiative to be replicated across other industries such as energy, brewing, data-science or specialist engineering. 

The FSB’s policy convener Andy Willox said the government could use some of the £100m raised from the apprenticeship levy to fund this expansion of vocational training across the country.

Companies with an annual wage bill of £3 million pay the 0.5% levy to help fund apprenticeships. It is estimated there are around 4,000 levy payers operating in Scotland across the private, public and third sector.

The funding finds its way into colleges to support apprenticeship courses, but the Scottish government has already taken a divergent view by making the levy more flexible than in England.

Less than half of Scotland’s estimated £221m levy funding in 2017-18 was allocated to apprenticeships, with the rest spent on a range of workforce development and pre-employment support programmes.

In contrast, the share of the levy funding for England is all ring-fenced for funding apprentices employees.

The broader approach from the Scottish government was supported by the CBI which says it responds to what business needs rather than deciding what it should get.

The expansion planned by CodeClan indicates a growing momentum behind more industry-focused academies based on the fast-track model and is one that deserves closer attention.





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