I recently met with Phil Jones, CEO of the UK's National Skill Academy for Process Industries to discuss how his organisation is going to help improve training across the chemical sector.
Jones told me the most important initiative being implemented for the chemical sector is the "Skills Passport" which is launching on 1 January 2010. This is a kind of standardised CV, enabling employees to record what experience they have and training they've done in a web-based system which will be open for potential employers to inspect.
"This enables companies to compare employees against world-class "gold standards"which will be created for all major job types." The system will create a "skills gap" so that employees know what they should aim for.
"It's about increasing skills levels so that our industry can compete against countries like Germany and the US."
Companies will pay to have the system for matching whilst training groups will pay to place their courses on the system.
He also says a lot of work needs to be done now to ensure the right training is in place for the nascent biochemistry and clean technology industries.
He adds: "The National Skills Academy concept is to upskill the workforce to the level of 'world class skills'. We sit in the middle of this, bringing employers and training providers together. We can help providers understand employers' needs to make courses which are fit for purpose."
Jones points out that the average age for a chemical industry operator is around 55 and for supervisors it is 58. "We need 30,000 new employees and 10,000 new graduates," he adds.
The Academy has a staff of 21 based regionally with its HQ in Darlington. It is a private company owned by employers with seed funding from the government.