Introduce tax breaks for training? I should coco

Recent research indicates that manufacturing companies want tax breaks to encourage training and boost skill levels. The words ‘whistling’ and ‘wind’ spring to mind.

TEXT: It’s often said that you can have too much of a good thing. I don’t buy that.
One good thing we’d all like more of is a half-decent tax break. That’s certainly the view of many members of the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF). They want tax credits for training, arguing it would encourage companies to spend more on training, thus boosting skills.
A worthy notion, but one I fear will get short shrift if it lands in Gordon Brown’s in-tray. With public spending heading north, tax revenues south and the economy meandering in no particular direction, the chancellor is in no position to grant largesse. Yet the EEF members’ wish has much to recommend it.
The productivity gap between the UK and similar economies, such as Germany and France, is widening in their favour. And the gap between the UK and the US is about 30%, according to John Van Reenen, director of the Centre for Economic Performance.
He says skills levels are one of four major fac-tors that influence productivity. The others are competition, capital investment and innovation.
On top of this, employers must cope with the many youngsters leaving school having learned little of use and whose levels of literacy and numeracy are abysmal. And it is not just young-sters who struggle with the three R’s. A recent report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said 16 million adults have the reading and writing skills of 11-year olds.
This bleak picture is unlikely to brighten. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s 2005 assessment of the English skills of 11-year olds found their general spelling ability had fallen. No surprise though that in the dumbed-down world of state school testing this didn’t stop pass rates for English from rising.
So not only must employers pay for their employees’ training – and rightly so – but they must also pay a large chunk towards the 61bn spent on a state education system that doesn’t deliver the goods. Many must think they already pay through the nose in taxes for state education and are reluctant to spend more than the bare minimum on training their staff.
Maybe the chancellor will say yes to tax breaks for training. But don’t get too excited. Given Brown’s tax credit track record, any such break would be mired in a bureaucratic system so dense that it would qualify for an old-style Soviet Union award for productivity.
How are you feeling luv?
Sally Gunnell had perfect timing as an Olympic athlete par excellence. Sadly, this skill failed to transfer quite so well to television.
Her technique of ambushing breathless athletes with microphone in hand and asking them “how do you feel” led to a national newspaper poll voting her the second most pitiful TV pundit – behind Ian Wright.
Gunnell has now quit her 60,000-a-year interviewing job and blames Auntie for her demise. “All I received from the BBC was a couple of training courses that lasted about an hour.”
It seems these focused on what to wear and how to sit in front of the cameras, rather than how to conduct interviews. But I fear it wasn’t so much training that Ms Gunnell lacked, but rather those indefinable qualities of timing and on-screen presence – plus some firm direction on the best place to stick a microphone.
John Charlton, editor and training manager


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