Jones, tasked by the government with generating interest in the pledge, told Personnel Today: “I’ve been going on to the Department for Education and Skills every month since November: ‘Can we launch the pledge, can we launch the pledge?’, and they’ve said ‘No’.
“The government said it was going to launch the pledge when it was ready. Then it was going to launch in April, and then in May, and it kept putting it off.”
But Jones insisted there was a “huge appetite” in the private sector to sign up.
He said he had more than 40 major companies, including McDonald’s and catering giant Compass, interested in signing the pledge to train all their employees to Level 2. Many were eager to register as early as January, he added, but the government said it was not ready and was not launching it until 14 June.
The former CBI director-general, added: “The bigger companies, the ones that will be emblematic for this, are all up for it, and the government has said: ‘You won’t sign until we’re ready’.”
Lord Sandy Leitch told the government on 5 December 2006 that all employers should sign the pledge by 2010 to give the UK a chance to compete in the global market. Employers have criticised the lack of action since then, insisting that many firms don’t even know what the pledge involves.
Jones has been touring the UK to spark interest in the pledge. He confessed that small businesses are unaware of it, blaming poor government co-ordination.
“The government should be using different channels to communicate with small businesses, such as VAT returns and health and safety or fire officer visits. Loads of government agencies could put this at the top of their agenda,” Jones said.
However, skills minister Phil Hope told Personnel Today: “That’s what 14 June is all about – there will still be some companies we need to reach out to.
“We needed to do the groundwork first. We wanted to launch the pledge with a lot of leading companies to encourage others.”
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