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A Spotlight On Our Skills Advisers: David Sparkes and Dean Pierpoint

This month, we spoke to our two specialist Skills Advisers, David Sparkes and Dean Pierpoint, to find out about their role here at New Anglia Growth Hub and how they’re helping businesses to upskill their workforce and expand skill sets.

Can you tell us a bit about your role and what it involves?
David: Our skills role is funded by UK Govt Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Our role exists to provide free impartial skills support to businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk who want to grow their business. Practically, this involves engaging with businesses who want to upskill their workforce or management or take on apprenticeships.

We contact the business and organise an informal meeting, to discuss their skills needs and issues. Having researched and reviewed suitable potential training providers, we can then agree on actions and referrals to follow up. Our aim is to provide practical and useful skills advice and solutions to the business, helping them to overcome any potential challenges and reach their goals.

What is a typical day and/or week for you?
Dean: A typical week for me involves visiting businesses to discuss and address their skills needs, challenges and ambitions. From these informal meetings, we can identify and explore the different routes available and best suited to them. I’ll also support the Growth Hub team at our Ipswich office with business enquiries and training advice. Another crucial part of my role is to regularly meet with skills and training providers, to understand and be able to advise best on the support and services available to businesses in their area.

What do you like best about being a Skills Adviser?
David: I completed a comprehensive 5-year electrical engineering apprentice with a very large electro-mechanical engineering company. I also benefited from additional skills and management training courses over the following years by working in a number of sectors during my career to date. I get job satisfaction from delivering a service that helps encourage businesses to identify employees with potential to upskill and improve business growth prospects for their business whilst improving the employee’s career prospects for promotion.

What type of businesses do you work with?
Dean: We work with all businesses, of any size, in any sector, across both Norfolk and Suffolk.

Some businesses think investing in workforce skills takes too much time and money, is that true?
David: I find many busy business owners and managers struggle to understand what workforce upskilling opportunities and support are out there for them. This is particularly common when deciding to take on apprenticeships. My colleague Dean and I spend time with our skills-based clients, by providing management with useful basic skills and related information, to encourage the business to review and upskill their workforce.

You mention apprenticeships. Do you think they can be valuable to any business, regardless of size?
Dean: Apprenticeships, in my opinion, should be a staple part of any businesses growth plan. Investing in the future workforce is a great way to build long-term plans and ensure consistency of work ethic and output within the business. As well as this for many businesses, it is a great way to utilise government funding for existing staff members who want to further their professional development.

What other funded opportunities for training are available?

David: There are many different funding opportunities available to support businesses. Some examples include government support for apprenticeships, training costs covered for smaller businesses, funding for 16-18-year-olds and other helpful resources.

What would be your top tip to any businesses struggling with skills shortages?
Dean: Speak to us and let us take the leg-work out of trying to find the right provision for the problem. The skills market can be confusing and it evolves all the time – my job is to help you explore the different options available and find what’s best for you.

What do you like to get up to outside the office?
David: Family time. Getting outdoors and keeping fit or canoeing with friends on the rivers where I live.

What would be your perfect Sunday?
Dean: My perfect Sunday would involve plenty of relaxing and spending time with my family and friends.

And to finish, tell us each your favourite quote or line of advice for businesses?
Dean: There’s a fantastic quote I like by Richard Branson – “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

David: If you are running a business and are thinking about upskilling yourself, wanting to improve workforce skills or taking on apprentices then call the New Anglia Growth Hub office – we are here to help.

Thank you to David and Dean for a very insightful look into how you support local businesses at New Anglia Growth Hub. If you would like to speak to one of our Skills Advisers, please call our business support helpline on 0300 333 6536 or email growthhub@newanglia.co.uk.