Liz McAreavey: Investing in skills key to economic future

The effects of Donald Trumps victory will be felt in Scotland. Picture: AFPThe effects of Donald Trumps victory will be felt in Scotland. Picture: AFP
The effects of Donald Trumps victory will be felt in Scotland. Picture: AFP
As the dust begins to settle on the US election, business communities in Scotland will be monitoring the ripple effect of promises made to secure victory and how changes to the American economy will be felt throughout the global economic landscape.

In the midst of this circus of surprises businesses are beginning to accept the surreal as the norm. Focusing less on world and European events, businesses are now looking to self-reliance and day-to-day running to create strong, resilient operations. Nevertheless, front of mind is how they will grow, access new markets, attract and keep talent, raise finance, embrace technological change, deliver profit and maintain a balanced life.

Developing a skilled workforce is one of the priorities for Scottish Government. The Programme for Government focuses on the themes of an education system providing opportunities for all, an economy with more jobs and fair work, public services fit for the future, strengthened local democracy and safeguarding Scotland’s place in the world.

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We must ensure Scotland has the best career opportunities and training to attract and retain the best talent and also to ensure our businesses have the innovation, leading processes and creative ideas to improve productivity and competitiveness.

The Edinburgh Guarantee and Developing the Young Workforce programmes are doing a phenomenal job, helping shape the curriculum at schools and colleges to ensure young people have the skills and education needed for the workforce of the future. There is huge commitment from the private sector in partnership with government to deliver this new approach. This is a great model that could be replicated to identify the training needs of SMEs and how this might be delivered through public and private sector collaboration.

Yet less funding is provided for developing careers and in-work training for life-long learning. Skills Development Scotland has just removed the Flexible Training Opportunities and small businesses are struggling not only to invest in much-needed staff training but managing resources. As the cost of Brexit bites, resources are pinched and businesses cannot afford to release key staff for professional development creating a short-term plug but a long-term problem.

In a world of uncertainty, the unexpected and the unpredictable, let’s look at how we can drive change through investing in people throughout their careers. We must not lose sight of the benefits of a well trained workforce which will contribute to the growth and productivity of the SME sector and across all sectors, creating more job opportunities, inclusiveness and a healthy economy.

Liz McAreavey is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce