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Up-skilling is the way to unlock productivity

Improving the performance of South West businesses through training and skills development is central to maintaining the region's economy.

That's the advice from Business Link following recent research into productivity commissioned by the South West of England Regional Development Agency. It suggests that for every one hundred minutes of travel that businesses are located from London, their productivity reduces by about 6%.

It's a statistic that becomes more significant the deeper you travel into this region. By the time you reach Plymouth, local businesses could be 12% less productive than their counterparts in London, the report, produced by University of West of England & University of Bath illustrates.

Bob Dow, chief executive at Business Link says: "Ultimately sales, economic performance and the development of new ideas are all down to your employees. This is why all business leaders and managers should be looking to see how they can better develop themselves and their workforce and what external help and assistance is available to them."

Peter Gripaios, professor of applied economics at Plymouth Business School agrees: "It's vital that the Devon and Cornish workforce, as well as that of the UK, is continuously up-skilled. Devon and Cornwall cannot compete anymore on the basis of low wages and traditional manufacturing. There is a need to move 'up market' in terms of products and processes and better education and skills goes with the territory."

Nigel Jump, chief economist at the South West RDA, said: "Time-distance from major markets, such as London, has been shown to be an important factor in explaining differences in the economic performance of different parts of South West England. We cannot easily address this factor directly but, by working with partners to make South West England's businesses more competitive, especially through our focus on skills and innovation, we can make time-distance less of a constraint for the region's economy."

The development of manager and employee skills contributes to business growth and performance in a multitude of ways, by adding value to the business, the reduction of costly mistakes and simply through saving time and being more efficient. Employer benefits, from offering their workforce good quality training, include improved retention of employees, a more flexible and skilled workforce and increased levels of staff motivation.

Shaun Newman, director of development at Connexions, the advice and information service for young people commented: "Skill levels and qualifications are widely recognised as increasingly important for the long term prosperity of individuals, companies and the whole economy. There is a significant shift away from lower skilled jobs to those requiring intermediate and higher level skills and qualifications within the UK economy. A need for more flexible and multi-skilled staff is increasingly the norm." He added: "Young people leaving education have much to offer employers in terms of energy, enthusiasm, innovation and skills but most will need further training in the workplace to become fully productive, whether they are 16 year old school leavers or 21 year old graduates."

Bob Dow says: "We are having contact with and supporting over 20,000 businesses each year, that's over a third of all businesses in Cornwall and Devon. Not only do we give out information but we are listening to and providing the type of support businesses are saying they want to help them increase their performance through training and skills development."

For further information please contact Maxine McAdams on 01566 771862 or email:

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in Business Link through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agriculture Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).


Editor's notes:

Business Link Devon and Cornwall
Business Link provides a free information and enquiry service via an information gateway on the web and via the telephone on 0845 600 9966 to all businesses and those considering starting a business. Additionally It provides impartial business advice and support through a network of partner organisations, which it co-ordinates, and a register of independent business practitioners. Business Link for Devon and Cornwall delivers the national Business Link service to the region under contract from the South West RDA.

Learning Skill Council (LSC)
The LSC exists to make England better skilled and more competitive. They are responsible for planning and funding high-quality vocational education and training for everyone. They have a single goal: to improve the skills of England's young people and adults to world-class standards. There vision is that by 2010, young people and adults in England have the knowledge and skills matching the best in the world and are part of a truly competitive workforce. Established in 2001 the LSC works nationally, regionally and locally from a network of offices across the country.


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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