Employers fail to sign up to Leitch skills pledge to train staff in basic skills by 2010

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has admitted to Personnel Today that not a single company has signed its much-hyped pledge to train their staff in basic skills by 2010, as recommended by the Leitch Review more than five months ago.

Published in December last year, the review said government should step in by 2010 if not enough employers had pledged to give all their workers Level 2 qualifications – the equivalent of five GCSEs at A-C.

Passionate speeches have been given by chancellor Gordon Brown and education secretary Alan Johnson on the need for employers to sign this pledge. And now skills envoy Digby Jones has been deployed across the country to encourage companies to sign up. But a DfES spokeswoman told Personnel Today last week: “No companies have signed up yet – but we are in the early stages.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development warned in December that Lord Sandy Leitch was being unrealistic by relying on employers. Its learning and development adviser Eileen Arney said at the time: “For many, it is not in their financial interest to invest in portable skills that might be poached by competitors.”

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told Personnel Today last week that he was not at all surprised about the lack of pledges. “I do not believe that businesses are aware of it. There has been no real campaign, despite the efforts of Digby Jones,” he said. “Once we are aware, we will get out and promote it to small businesses, but we can’t until we know what is being asked by government.”

The DfES defended the government’s initial efforts. “The formal launch of the pledge will not be until the summer,” said a spokeswoman. “Digby Jones is now out and about talking to the biggest businesses in the UK, attempting to encourage them to agree to sign up prior to the launch in the summer.”

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