What Skills Are Needed For Business?

Robert Gillan, Consultant & Vanessa Williams, Western Training Providers, on 31 May 2002

Mr Gillan's present work involves the professional training of managers in the UK and Europe. His varied career began in the Army, including being a cadet at Sandhurst, followed by working in the world of the Arts.

His main theme was that today few careers offer a job for life; individuals looking at personnel training needed to take that into account. It is often a lack of a range of skills that lose managers their positions. It should also be noted that the skills required for senior management positions are different from those for lower levels of management. Major companies that fail to recognise this sometimes run into trouble.

Vanessa Williams was involved in dealing with the shortcomings of those school leavers least able to meet the minimum standards needed by employers. Besides numeracy and literacy, it was the basic social characteristics like punctuality that were frequently the problem. The number of job seekers lacking such basic requirements has been investigated by Mr Gillan. He has produced league tables for the industrialised countries. Sweden was best with only about 7%; the continental countries followed, until the UK appeared with about 23 % of virtually illiterate job seekers. The USA was at much the same level as the UK.


The general discussion concentrated on this feature of our UK society; it was considered a social as much as an educational problem. Lack of role models, more single-parent families, smaller extended families and the lack of bonds within the neighbouring community were blamed. In education, it was felt that the decline of team games had lowered the support young people could gain from belonging to a club.

Mr Gillan, working on the continent and returning to Bath at a weekend, was always struck by the presence of beggars and the spirit of alienation amongst so many people.

The meeting asked itself how this decline in attitudes had come about and what remedies there were for it. Vanessa Williams sought to strike a more optimistic note but it was felt that it would take some time to be able to judge whether she was justified in doing so. A return to traditional apprenticeship and training has been advocated recently by the Prince of Wales and the success of such schemes has been reported.

Mr Gillan recommended the book `In the Company of Heroes' by David Viall, published by Kogan Page for anyone wanting to read further on the subject.

Rodney Tye