Employers groups angered by lack of government action on Leitch Review skills warning

Employers’ groups have hit out at the government for its lack of action on avoiding the skills catastrophe predicted by the Leitch Review.

Lord Sandy Leitch told the government on 5 December 2006 that the UK faced a bleak future if it did not give its workers better skills by 2020. But 161 days later, despite passionate speeches from the likes of chancellor Gordon Brown and skills envoy Digby Jones, employers insist not enough has happened.

A key target set by the Leitch Review was for all employers to commit to training all their workers to Level 2, the equivalent of five GCSEs at A-C, by 2010. Not a single company has committed to this pledge, with business leaders claiming this is because they don’t know what to sign.

Susan Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, told Personnel Today: “We urge the government to get the pledge out quickly. We need to agree what it is employers are committing to.

“The government wants to judge progress by 2010, so it has to tell us what we have to sign up to. The more it dilly-dallies around, the more time is lost.”

This call was echoed by EEF senior economist Lee Hopley. “It is hard to ask companies to sign up to a pledge until they know the details of it,” she said. “It has been six months now, and it is time the government set out what it wants us to sign.”

The Leitch Review also called for changes to the training system, making it simpler and more responsive to employer needs. The EEF said it was vital that the government “sets out a timetable” for implementing the review’s recommendations as a matter of urgency.

Leitch Review recommendations

  • Route public funding of vocational skills through Train to Gain service and Learner Accounts.
  • Create a Commission for Employment and Skills to speak for employers to government.
  • Reform and empower the Sector Skills Councils.
  • Launch ‘pledge’ for employers to voluntarily train eligible staff up to Level 2. In 2010, if progress is unsatisfactory, introduce statutory entitlement to training.
  • Boost employer investment in Level 3 and 4 qualifications.
  • Develop a network of employer-led ‘employment and skills boards’ to influence skills delivery.