EXCLUSIVE | Gov Minister Liam Fox backs alternate training scheme

Gov Minister Liam Fox backs alternate training scheme

In an exclusive interview with HR Grapevine, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox MP described his reasons for backing a new non-traditional training programme.

The scheme, run by the Department of International Trade (DIT), the government department responsible for trade deals with non-EU states, acts as an alternate entry into governmental work, different from traditional graduate schemes.

The DIT claims it will prioritise candidates for the two-year programme with a “commitment to learn and work” rather than having a degree or previous work experience. It is open to candidates of all ages.

Speaking to Daniel Cave, Head of Content at HR Grapevine at the launch of the scheme, Liam Fox explained that DIT wanted to attract a type of applicant who would not have usually applied.

“What we wanted to do was pilot a different scheme that [appealed] to youngsters who may not have thought about it before,” he told HR Grapevine. “I hope it will enable youngsters who have never thought about it before and might not have aspired to university to consider a career in trade.”

Fox, who is MP for North Somerset, also added that the DIT needs to be attractive as an employer and can do this by advertising what training the scheme offers to potential candidates.

“If we’re going to be successful as a country, we need to raise the awareness of trade as an issue and as a potential source of employment,” he said. “In this training package, we will give you experience in our sector teams so you have an understanding of what’s in development and what we do well as a country, what we have to sell and what we’re selling already.”

In the sit-down, Fox described how success for the scheme would involve entrants going on to have a “long-term career in trade” whilst “at the same time they inspire others to want to follow.”

When asked whether the scheme would give the department better access to the skillsets it needs, he replied in the affirmative.

The DIT expects the majority of candidates to be school leavers, people switching careers or those looking to work in Government for the first time.

Employer struggles

Whilst this new scheme is special to the DIT, most - if not all - of UK employers are operating on a very similar employment landscape.

Anecdotally, many say that they are struggling to access the skills they need to be successful as an organisation. It was only recently that a Government-sponsored report said that the UK’s financial services industry was facing “an existential skills crisis.”

In addition, Indeed, the jobs site with the highest traffic worldwide, found that because there are more people in work, employers are struggling to fill certain roles.

Whilst some vacancies are sitting open for longer, many organisations such as DIT are hiring for mindset, or explaining to candidates that they needn’t have university qualifications to apply.

Whilst many believe that non-university routes improve diversity, certain employers believe it gives them access to skillsets they might have overlooked.

At MediaCom, Nancy Lengthorn, Head of D&I and Future Talent, explained that the firm is benefiting from ditching CVs and being focused on qualifications when they recruit young talent.

"We now concentrate on behaviours, capability, and potential,” she told HR Grapevine. “Focusing on internships that a young person may have been gifted by their parent’s social network or discussing the Duke of Edinburgh Award that a teacher cajoled them into doing doesn’t give us insights into the qualities that will help drive our business forward.” 

Highlighting training as the key to strong hiring

With many reporting that they are operating in a ‘candidate-led’ recruitment marketplace, foregrounding opportunities to learning and development could be the best way forward in hiring.

According to an Instructure report, nearly half of UK employees (44%) believe that their workplace doesn’t value development.

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Yet, the same report found that learning and development opportunities affect their decision to take a job. A staggering 98% claim that it is a key factor in deciding whether to stay with an employer or not.

ArrowXL, a delivery firm, has seen the benefit of providing good training. Since creating a development academy and bespoke training scenarios employee engagement at the firm has leapt from 42% to 71%.

Zoe Sinclair, Director of People Services at ArrowXL explained that training was making “a real difference for our people and our business.”



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