When the charity Skills - Third Sector was set up five years ago to improve the skills of the voluntary sector workforce, it received government grants totalling £1m. In 2013/14, it will receive just £125,000 from the Cabinet Office - 50 per cent less than in the previous year. Its overall income fell from £1m in 2009 to £582,000 in 2012.
Keith Mogford, who has been chief executive of Skills - Third Sector since 2011, says he doesn't bear any ill will towards government for the cuts. "The reduction in government grant funding poses a challenge, but our view has always been that organisations and individuals in the sector should find ways of investing in skills themselves rather than assuming that government will pay."
He thinks the charity should also become more self-sufficient. "In broad terms, our strategy at the moment is to make ourselves more sustainable by developing a range of products and services for organisations in the sector," he says.
This includes two projects that are due to be launched later this year. The first is a website with the working title of Skills Platform that will open in September. It will bring together information on sector-related training and enable charities to search for training and see whether it has been endorsed by other organisations.
Mogford says the site has the potential to be a "game-changer" and can become "the go-to place for access to information on training". The site will be free to use, he says, but training providers will probably be charged a fee to have their courses listed. He hopes the platform will also help shape the type of training that is being supplied to the sector through a function called 'shout outs', where charities or individuals can post training needs that are not being met by an existing provider. "If you're a training provider, you'll see that and respond to it as a market opportunity," he says.
The other project currently in development has the working title of Skills Clubs. "We're hoping to facilitate circles or collaborations of employers so that they share each other's staff," says Mogford.
He says there are often situations in which a charity has talented individuals working for it who want to develop their skills in a certain area, but the charity does not have suitable immediate vacancies.
But another charity might be able to help temporarily.
Skills - Third Sector is currently working with 15 charities that want to pilot the project in the autumn, and together they have applied for funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
A recent review of skills and leadership in the voluntary sector, commissioned by the Cabinet Office and led by Dame Mary Marsh, found a number of areas that charities needed to work on.
Mogford says the review found that one of the most important issues was recruiting and retaining talent - particularly young talent.
"Statistically, the sector lags behind both the for-profit and the public sectors in the proportion of 16 and 19-year-old school leavers it recruits," he says. He says it is important to address this, because there is a growing talent pool of people who have decided against higher education.
He says part of this should involve better communication by charities about career paths. "No matter how strong someone's commitment to social action is, if they feel as though their careers are stagnating, they are more likely to take their career in a different direction," he says.
Digital skills are another area for improvement (see page 28), says Mogford, adding that he suspects that the sector is making progress in using digital technology for communications, but too many charities are not thinking enough about how it could be used to deliver services.
Asked if the sector currently has the financial resources to improve in these areas, Mogford says there are always small things any organisation can do. "It doesn't take extra resources for every chief executive or manager in the sector to commit to mentoring the development of someone in their organisation," he says. "And even a very small charity could probably make some use of Twitter."
Mogford says that, although there is financial pressure on the sector, there are still charities that are committed to investing in people development. And he expects that Skills - Third Sector will play an important part in helping them do so by launching innovative, practical solutions. "That is at the heart of our role," he says.
2011: Chief executive, Skills - Third Sector
2011: Interim chief executive, Skills - Third Sector
2009: Director of stakeholder engagement, National Open College Network
2005: Chief executive, Open College Network Eastern Region
1999: Director, Open College Network North and East London and Hertfordshire
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- See our article on how to get financial training on a shoestring