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New business links made with Tunisia and the Staffordshire Moorlands

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: June 08, 2014

By Belinda Hargreaves

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A Staffordshire Moolands man has been instrumental in establishing international training links in North Africa.

In a pioneering visit to Tunisia, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce employees offered support to a struggling training centre.

They included management consultant Pete Ball, from Leek, who is the chamber's Business Advisor.

In a five-day trip Mr Ball and Linda McQuade, the chamber's Training and Enterprise Manager, travelled to the Tunis-based 'Training Centre in Electricity and Maintenance of Biomedical Equipment' to identify the facility's needs and create solutions.

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The pair developed a four-pronged approach focused on 'soft skills' excellence, addressing parents, employers, students and the centre.

Soft skills relate to a person's ability to interact effectively with co-workers and customers.

Mr Ball said: "We found that Tunisian trainers understood the importance of soft skills but didn't know how to implement effective training.

"Due to a lack of funding, some 50 staff were sharing one PC, and the materials being used were badly dated.

"Teaching soft skills requires little money or resources – it's all about attitude.

"It was the perfect area to focus on and could drastically improve student employability chances with next to no cost.

"The enthusiasm of the staff was truly touching to see – the trainers within the centre were passionate about improvement and keen to offer better levels of education.

"The centre was fighting against poverty and poor materials, and the commitment to getting students in jobs was genuine.

"This pro-active attitude towards creating a positive impact on education and the economy was enthusing, and it was a privilege to be able to support the centre."

The British Council is currently funding international skills partnerships to help bring together UK organisations with counterpart organisations around the world.

After winning a bid to the British Council, the chamber was able to extend its reach to North Africa and help introduce transformative benefits within the Tunisian centre.

Ms McQuade, who lives in Packmoor near Biddulph, said: "This was a fantastic opportunity, allowing us to establish lasting links with organisations quite literally half a world away. We were able to go out to Tunisia and see the training opportunities available to school leavers, identifying any support needed and sharing ideas and advice with trainers.

"The centre we visited needed a comprehensive coaching system to help get students in employment.

"Following a series of talks and meetings, Pete and I produced a business model recommending that the institute focuses on excellence in soft skills.

"The Tunisian trainers informed us that in the post-revolution climate, disruption and behavioural issues were causing problems within classes.

"By improving the teaching of soft skills, this problem could be drastically reduced."

As well as completing a training needs analysis and producing a new business model focused on soft skills, the pair offered ideas on how to up-skill trainers and create better communication.

Ms McQuade said the visit could promote further links.

She added: "This wasn't about going over to Tunisia and criticising their training methods.

"It was about sharing best practice and coming in to the centre with fresh, objective eyes.

"The trip was a mutually beneficial experience, and hopefully only the start of the chamber's work in creating international training links."

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