Skills initiatives are missing the mark

There is a gap between training spend and result according to the recently
published National Employers Skills Survey (NESS) 2003.

The findings of the survey – commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council
(LSC) – paint a gloomy picture of the state of skills and training in England.
Despite employers spending more than £4.5bn on training and an estimated extra
£10bn in terms of staff time, only around half of employees are benefiting, it
is claimed.

More than a fifth of employers reported skills gaps in their workforce,
which were adversely affecting their business. Yet only 39 per cent had a
training plan and less than a third (31 per cent) had a training budget in

A massive 72,000 interviews were carried out between April and June last
year for the survey – the largest of its kind. It included the smallest firms
(employing up to five staff) right up to major organisations, in 27 sectors
across England.

"The biggest surprise was finding that 2.4 million employees were
considered by their employers not to be fully proficient in their jobs,"
said Stephen Gardner, director of skills and workforce development at LSC.

"Skills gaps between applicants and job vacancies are consistent with
what we have seen in the past. The sectors where the shortages were identified
were as expected, but there are huge variations across the board," he

While 43 per cent of employees lacked practical and technical skills, the
high instance of ‘soft skills’ deficiencies was unexpected. Where staff were
judged by their employer not to be up to the job, 61 per cent were seen to lack
communication skills, 55 per cent customer handling skills and 52 per cent were
short on teamworking skills.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) sees the survey – conducted
before the launch of the Skills Strategy last year – as supporting the
direction of the Government and the LSC.

DfES spokesman, Philip Treloar, said: "We now have the funds to make
training available to the workforce and the more employers we can get involved
in funded learning the better."

By Elaine Essery

This story was taken from the latest issue if Training Magazine, out on 2
March.  Subscribe at

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