Jenny Linaker is a Business Skills Adviser working on the Skills West project. She helps West of England businesses in the professional services sector tackle skills gaps and offers advice on a range of skills related matters. We caught up with Jenny to find out more about her day job, how she can help companies and what she likes to get up to outside of the office.
Tell us a bit about yourself; your role as a Business Skills Adviser for Skills West and your career background?
I began working on the Skills West programme in March 2017. It aims to tackle skills shortages in the West of England by bridging the gap between education and employers. A large part of what I do involves building a picture of what employers need both now and in the future so that education providers can respond and develop the right programmes. I engage directly with businesses in the region to discuss their skills needs and help them to access solutions. We’re lucky enough that we have 4 colleges, 4 universities and lots of independent training providers but this can be complex to navigate so we aim to streamline access to skills and training and forge connections.
I’ve been at Business West since 2013 as a Business Adviser and before this I spent several years working in telecoms at KCOM, supporting the mid-market and partner channels with in-life project support and account management, before moving into a Business Analysis role. Once upon a time I was an admin apprentice!
What is a typical day and / or week for you?
A large proportion of the week is spent meeting employers – large or small to discuss skills challenges and opportunities. From there, it’s about finding the best solutions to meet their needs which could mean exploring our network of training providers to find training and qualifications, brokering connections into education or signposting to additional business support opportunities where required. When I’m not meeting and supporting employers, I might be networking and building my own connections, researching and writing reports or planning additional activities. At the moment for example, I am working with partners and internal teams to deliver our next event for professional and financial services employers and a set of workshops in the autumn, which involves working closely with our marketing and events teams to source content and speakers and so on.
Can you help any type of business with skills needs?
We can! In the West of England we have a thriving group of SMEs who may not have their own internal resources to help them identify recruitment and training needs so we are on hand to support them. Larger businesses may already have HR and recruitment teams but we can still assist them, particularly with outreach.
What sort of advice are you able to give to businesses in the West of England?
I can offer guidance on how to attract and retain employees, the best training solutions available and how to raise the profile of opportunities. Apprenticeships are a hot topic at the moment as there have been lots of changes, particularly around the funding available to SMEs, so I often help businesses to make sense of those. Our universities also offer lots of support for employers to tap into graduate talent through intern schemes, recruitment, consultancy and project based assignments.
You mention apprenticeships. Our recent survey found that 64.9% of businesses had never used an apprentice. Do you think they can be valuable to any business, regardless of size?
Absolutely!! An apprenticeship equips people with the skills and experience they need for their role so they can be beneficial for increasing productivity, improving business performance and helping to fill skills gaps in any business. Small businesses often lose their talent to larger companies who offer progression and the costs to recruit can be a burden, so investing in employee development through apprenticeships is a great way to attract candidates and can help with their motivation, commitment and retention in the longer term.
What would be your top tip to any businesses struggling with skills shortages?
My first tip would be get in touch for impartial advice and support! The second would be to build relationships with local education providers. Many colleges and universities offer activities for businesses to engage with and attract future talent – whether it’s networking with students, offering CV advice or sharing your industry knowledge and offering work experience. If you’re not sure where to start our team can help with this too!
What do you love most about your job?
The variety of businesses I work with. I look after professional services and visitor economy and the two sectors are very different. One day I might be exploring how technology is transforming legal and accountancy companies and the next I could be discussing the impacts of chef shortages with a local hotel or restaurant!
What do you like to get up to outside the office?
I’m an F1 fan but I don’t get much time to watch it since becoming a homeowner a few years ago – it’s a work in progress. On the plus side, it means I’ve had to roll up my sleeves and develop my own DIY skills (and patience!). When I’m not stalking staff at B&Q then my local gym is great for a workout but equally good for snooze poolside afterwards!
You can get in touch with Jenny by emailing her, or calling 01275 373373.
Meet the Skills West Team
Peter Doyle, Advanced Engineering Business Skills Adviser
Charlotte Trusler, Advanced Engineering Business Skills Adviser
Lizzie Lyons, Business Skills Manager
Jenny Linaker, Professional Services Business Skills Adviser