Byers sets skills challenge

Employers need to invest more in training to remain competitive and meet the
challenge of the knowledge economy, Secretary of State for Trade & Industry
Stephen Byers told the TD2000 conference last Thursday.

Byers took time out from negotiations over the Rover plant crisis to speak
at the conference, organised by Personnel Today’s sister magazine Training and
the Industrial Society, to stress the importance the Government placed on
developing employees.

"The first industrial revolution required investment in plant and
machinery. The new revolution based on knowledge requires an investment in
training," he said.

He told the conference, organised as part of a campaign to put training at
the heart of business, that the UK’s history of supporting training was not
something to be proud of.

He said many employers had reduced their spending on training and reduced
the time off for employees to develop skills.

"This is a matter of great concern." But, he added, "The
Government is confronting and challenging employers about the importance of

He pointed to the work of the Skills Task Force and incentives from the DTI
to encourage more investment.

But he supported concern in the profession at the number of initiatives
being launched across government to encourage training. "The feedback we
are getting is that there may be a great deal of confusion and even
duplication," he said.

He added that the DTI had developed an web site to act as a guide to the
initiatives currently underway.

Byers welcomed progress made by some universities to work with business but
said this was still patchy and more needed to be done. He called on the
profession to continue the move away from the "chalk and talk"
approach to training towards more imaginative methods.

Equipping the UK workforce with the right skills is the only way to ensure
they can successfully cope with change, he said.

He rejected speculation that the Government would be reintroducing a
training levy on employers, saying this had not been effective in the past.

""We need to engage employers intellectually to take them through
the arguments for why training is important." Also speaking at the
conference, chief executive of the Industrial Society Will Hutton said the new
economy and urgency to maximise shareholder value has put training issues
centre stage. He urged the profession to lobby business leaders on the need to
build ethical organisations where developing people is seen as vital to sustain
brand reputations.


Comments are closed.