Overspend on Train to Gain likely by end of 2009

Train to Gain is in danger of running out of money this year following the recent surge in employer demand for the service, it has emerged.

After a slow start to the government’s flagship skills brokerage service, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has admitted it may now exceed its budget allocations for 2009-10.

Just six months ago, the provider was criticised for underspending on its budget by £200m. Changes to the flexibility of Train to Gain last year, allowing small and medium sized businesses greater choice in how they can use the money, have heaped pressure on the service, according to a letter sent out to colleges and training companies by the LSC.

The letter, obtained by The Guardian, said: “Left unchecked, Train to Gain and 25+ apprenticeship activity will exceed the budget allocations we have available in the 2009-10 financial year, and create further pressures in the 2009-10 academic year and beyond.”

John Lucas, skills advisor at the British Chambers of Commerce, warned that the problem may get worse as more employers try to take advantage of funding during the recession.

He told Personnel Today: “The scheme will be over budget quite soon, and will likely run out of steam shortly after, especially if the rate of registrations continues to climb.”

A spokesman for the business group CBI also warned that more large employers would also use the service if there was more flexibility in it, similar to the package offered to small businesses.

“Many employers support the principles behind Train to Gain and would join if there was more flexibility in the service,” he said.

Last month the CBI called for the government to fast-track access to its Train to Gain service so that more employers can skill up staff ready for the upturn. A CBI survey of 600 firms this week indicated that without greater flexibility for larger employers, they would continue to be put off using the service. It found two-fifths of employers using Train to Gain said it delivered “no impact” for their business. Three-quarters rated its training brokerage service as “poor” or at best “mixed”.

Since 2006, 127,000 employers have used Train to Gain. The latest figures also show that 12,791 employers have signed skills pledge – a commitment to train employees to Level 2 – which has shot up by more than 11,000 signatures in a year.

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