Meet the Skills Team: Lizzie Lyons

Zoe Bagnall
Content and PR Executive | Business West
28th July 2021

Lizzie Lyons is a Business Skills Advisor working on the Workforce for the Future and Kickstart projects. She works with businesses and training providers across the South West to help businesses upskill their teams while providing opportunities for young people. We caught up with Lizzie to find out more about her day job and how she supports both companies and young people to succeed. 

Tell us a bit about yourself; your role as a Skills Business Adviser and your career background? 

I have worked at Business West since 2014 and since 2017 as a Business Skills Advisor. Before that, my background was in tourism, where I completed a tourism management degree at Bournemouth. After graduating I started working for Destination Bristol, which is a sister company of Business West. From there I got into the skills side of things through the Tourism Skills Network South West before moving onto the Skills Team at the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and subsequently over to Business West. I’m now a Business skills advisor for the Workforce for the Future programme and am currently working with a variety of different businesses on different aspects of workforce planning. Workforce for the Future allows us to work closely with businesses for 30 hours on a strategic level. We are able to work with businesses for three years with the programme running up to September 2023. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Learning about different businesses. Right now, I’m working with a Music Producer, a Hospitality Events Company and a High-Value Manufacturing Company amongst others. It’s really varied and the good thing about this programme is that we’re not supporting with their immediate skills challenges but learning about the whole business, where they’ve come from, where they want to go and how they want to grow. We’re able to support them on the way and this is so rewarding.

What are the most challenging aspects of the job?

The most challenging part of the role is managing the different stakeholders. As well as working with the businesses, we’re working with training providers, colleges, and universities. Its about managing these relationships effectively so that what the businesses see is seamless. There are so many different training routes and entry routes into work and into education and we need to make it clear for businesses by making sure that all the programmes going on in the region are aligned. It’s also important, but sometimes challenging, to keep abreast of all the offerings that are out there. In this region, we’ve got the four colleges, four universities, eighty plus independent training providers who all might be delivering a variety of programmes and we’ve got to stay on top of who is delivering what, when, how much does it cost etc. 

What help and skills support are your team able to offer businesses as part of your role?

We have two programmes running currently. The Kickstart programme aims to help businesses wanting to offer a Kickstart placement and we support them through the application process to the DWP. 

The longer-term workforce development support is delivered through Workforce for the Future. We can offer businesses 30 hours of support to identify goals, assess their workforce and the environment they operate in, create a workforce development plan and identify suitable resources and practices to help reach their business goals. 

We challenge the businesses to think about equality and diversity and how they recruit and whether they’ve got the right recruitment practices in place. We work with them to determine whether they’re considering external factors such as what’s going on in the labour market, what’s going in their sector and how that’s going to impact their workforce. A lot of businesses don’t necessarily consider these external factors and struggle to recruit. We can help them to create a plan to make sure they have access to the right talent. 

Why should employers be interested in workforce development planning?

In this region, we have low unemployment, and that’s even after the impact of COVID. Recruiting is still a challenge for businesses and will continue to be so. There are certain trends that are emerging such as businesses beginning to recruit out of their area because with remote working there’s no reason that you can’t, for example, work for a company in London but live in Bristol. This means organisations might increasingly have to start competing on a national level for talent. 

Not enough businesses are thinking about the skills they’re going to need in the future. Many think about where they want to be, but not about the skills they need to get them there. We’re trying to encourage more businesses to get involved in the design of the curriculum for example. We hear a lot from businesses that young people come out of education without the right skills. We’re helping organisations to engage in education, become involved with what is being delivered in the schools and universities and helping to shape the skills that are delivered so that people emerge from education with the relevant skills to enter the workforce. 

Tell us about the most interesting business you have worked with?

The most inspirational and interesting business I’ve worked with is a company called The Waiting Game who came onboard in November, right in the middle of the pandemic. They’d completely shut down as their business was large events and festivals. Initially when I spoke to them, I was slightly apprehensive as their business had been impacted so greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they were upbeat and explained that the situation had really given them a chance to take stock of what they were doing and how they wanted to grow. 

Even though their staff were on furlough they were having regular catch ups with them, they were discussing their personal development, putting them on training courses and helping them develop. The owners are also looking at equality and diversity to ensure they are representative and inclusive as a workplace, all while his business and cash flow were really suffering. 

The business was really using the impact of the pandemic as an opportunity to develop the skills within their team and keep them engaged with the business. We’ve helped the business to understand the opportunities around apprenticeships and supported two employees to sign up to leadership and management training.

Want an appointment with Lizzie? You can email her or call 01275 373373.

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