Focus: People Management - National awards recognise the sector

Graham Willgoss,

Charities and voluntary bodies have claimed 12 per cent of nominations.

The voluntary sector has claimed the highest number of finalists at this year's UK Skills National Training Awards.

The sector tops the shortlist with 12 per cent of the nominations. Education and manufacturing follow, both claiming 11 per cent.

Since last year, charities have increased their presence on the shortlist by 55 per cent. The YMCA, One Plus: One Parent Families and the Dorset-based Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy are among the 220 finalists.

"Voluntary bodies are leading by example and continuing to inspire people to achieve excellence," says Dr Graeme Hall, chief executive of UK Skills.

"The increased number of finalists from the sector is indicative of its commitment to training."

Hall believes the sector has invested more time and money in the training of staff as organisations become increasingly commercially aware.

He says: "There is a desire within the sector to show prospective and current employees that it is investing in their staff. A National Training Award is a reflection of this commitment."

The National Training Awards were established in 1990 by the Department for Education and Skills to recognise exemplary training initiatives.

Any organisation or individual is eligible to put themselves forward for an award.

YMCA North Tyneside won this year's North East Training Award for its Pyramid Project, a scheme designed to provide skills and training to marginalised and unemployed people.

Working within drug, probation and prison services, it offers numeracy and literacy programmes, employment training and one-to-one counselling.

However, figures from the Voluntary Sector National Training Organisation in 2003 showed that the voluntary sector spent between 0.8 and 1.3 per cent of its turnover on training and development, compared with the private sector's 3 per cent and the public sector's 2.7 per cent.

"The sector has always had a good reputation for training, but because it's not government-funded it's not always highlighted," says Elaine Crompton, education manager at YMCA North Tyneside. Pyramid Project participants are also supported through access to a creche and play scheme for children, travel and subsistence expenses.

"Pyramid is a place where our presence is noticed, our views are listened to and our needs are taken care of," says a former student. "Under such care, we can flourish."

Southern region award winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on 29 November.

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