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Issue:- 09/10 December 2009

Top of the class!

MERSEYTRAVEL has secured one of the UK training industry’s top accolades – for its pioneering approach to developing its people.  The organisation has been given the Matrix Excellence award – as a company with learning at its heart and one that sets the bar for UK plc.

Merseytravel has committed to expanding awareness about its approach, bought about through its Merseylearn staff development arm and a range of other partners including the unions, to other UK companies.  The Matrix Excellence Awards are held annually and celebrate outstanding examples of what can be achieved by following the national Matrix Standard* approach to learning.

Councillor Alan Dean, Chair of Merseytravel’s Personnel Committee, said:- “Getting continued national recognition for our staff development programme is testament to all those who have worked so hard to make it happen. We are sharing our story with other companies in the hope that they will invest. Ultimately, it can only be good for UK plc.  Merseytravel will only ever be as good as our staff, so we see this as a vital part of our work to make us the best we can be. Our millions of customers deserve that.”

Neil Scales, Chief Executive and Director General of Merseytravel, added:- “We all have our own challenges as people and organisations. Ours is to be the best we can be within our resources; to be a world-class organisation that invests in its staff and leads by example.  Gaining national credit like this justifies every ounce of effort from our staff, our Members, our partners and our people. That commitment, from them and from us, has reaped huge benefits for our organisation. The results speak for themselves.”

Since launching its learning programme around 5 years ago, around 95% of staff are now qualified to Level 2 or above, skills levels and performance have improved significantly and complaints and sickness absence have fallen.  Merseytravel now has a lower turnover of staff than any other comparable transport authority in the country, at around 4%.  It has also committed to extending the reach of Merseylearn to its large and diverse supply chain and partner companies.

Merseytravel has been Matrix Standard accredited since 2005.  The standard recognises best practice in skills training and management development, by delivering the service to employees through learning teams and Union Learning Reps.  The award adds to Merseytravel’s bulging trophy cabinet for its learning programme.

Earlier this year Merseytravel won a coveted National Training Award - one of a handful given to “inspiring” organisations across the country.  The company also fought off competition from 1,700 nominations to scoop UK top spot in the Learndirect National Achievement Awards.  It is an Investors in People (IiP) “Champion” and was one of the employers to sign up to the government’s Skills Pledge.

*Led through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Matrix Standard is the national quality standard for any organisation that delivers learning at work and supports staff in developing themselves.

Sandra Sutton of Warwickshire Probation Service (far left) and Frank Lord, Chair of the Matrix Excellence Awards judging panel (far right) hand the award to Councillor Alan Dean, Councillor Peter Millea and Jim Barclay of Merseytravel.


NORTH West SME owner-managers “realistic” about region’s economic prospects, according to Clifton Asset Management. Fewer small business owners in the North West know about the government’s much-heralded Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) than anywhere else in the country despite the region being one of the places hardest hit by the recession.  And, of those who do know about it, 79% have decided to shun it anyway, seeing “no point” in applying for its help.  Just 55% of the region’s SMEs said they were aware of the EFG, a facility which aims to improve the availability of working capital through loans and overdrafts.  That compares to 66% in the East Midlands, 62% in London, 61% in the North East, 66% in the South East, 63% in the South West, 71% in Wales and 60% in the West Midlands.  Meanwhile more than half of North West SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) believe the recession still has more than a year to run and, despite national reports of a return to growth, a 3rd of the region’s SMEs reported a deterioration in their businesses during the last 3 months.  The research, carried out by Clifton Asset Management (CAM), also revealed that 26% of North West SME owner-managers had been forced to make cuts to their workforce in the last 6 months, with a further 13% admitting they would be looking to reduce their payroll even further as we move into 2010.  And all this negativity has severely dented the region’s small business owners’ retirement plans, with a full 82% reporting that they felt retirement was further away now than it was a year ago, with a further 21% saying they had put any thoughts of retiring on hold permanently.

“While many commentators have spent the last quarter desperately trying to talk up the economy our research with the people at the sharp end, UK small business owners, paints a very different picture.  SMEs are in the eye of the storm right now and 52% in the North West believe the recovery is going to be long and slow. This chimes with government forecasts that we could be into 2011 before the recovery is properly under way, meaning retirement in the current climate remains a pipe dream for the majority of our respondents in the region.” said Anthony Carty, a director at CAM.

Turning to the issue of the government’s EFG, he said:- “It is a sorry state of affairs when awareness of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee appears to have remained static at 67% among business owners in the North West at a time when the region’s economic situation has clearly worsened.  In any case our research reveals that of those business owners who are aware of the scheme, 79% see no point in applying for it and, of those who have applied, just 1% have reported success in securing much-needed finance.”

Mr Carty added:- “Our research shows that 28% of the region’s SMEs believe the North West is better placed than the rest of the country to withstand this recession, all of which tells me they are realistic and recognise that any recovery is going to be slow and painful, especially at a time when they are bracing themselves for a ‘double-whammy’ of tax increases and public spending cuts.”


NEW Government training plans should be used to support North West manufacturing according to a North West Euro-MP. 

Liberal Democrat Chris Davies has spoken out after visiting factories and training colleges over recent weeks.  Chancellor Alistair Darling, in the December 2009 pre-budget report, announced a guarantee of work or training for all under-24's who have been unemployed for more than 6 months.  But the MEP says priority should be given for support for apprenticeships and for people to be trained in engineering skills.

Chris Davies said that:- "Britain's manufacturing industry is being transformed and can offer stimulating and well paid employment, but the skills of older employees are not being replaced fast enough. We can export what we make all over the world but only if we train and educate the next generation of engineers."

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