The long-awaited skills pledge regained some credibility when Gordon Brown joined other political heavyweights, top employers and union leaders at its official launch last week.
More than 150 big name employers, including McDonald’s, BT and Ford, queued up to finally sign their commitment to offer Level 2 training to all their staff by 2010 at an elaborate launch in London – six months after the pledge was recommended by the Leitch Review.
CBI chief Richard Lambert, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, education secretary Alan Johnson, and prime minister designate Gordon Brown told a receptive audience the pledge would help defeat the UK’s skills shortage.
Skills envoy Sir Digby Jones claimed the event would be remembered as the day “millions of people’s lives got better”. He also called on employers signing the pledge to “take on” any business that did not – asking them to influence smaller firms and supply chains to sign up.
“If you come across those that think this is nothing to do with them, ask them about their cleaning ladies, or drivers,” he said. “When firms say ‘this is all rubbish’, take them on challenge them.”
But the British Chambers of Commerce insisted that smaller businesses would not be signing the pledge – as they have different needs and outlooks to big companies.
Skills policy adviser Louise Potter told Personnel Today: “Our members find the pledge patronising. They will be wasting time signing something that doesn’t mean much to them. Qualifications aren’t necessarily the key for employers. They don’t need the government telling them what to do.”
Potter said she feared the government would use the pledge as a “stick to beat employers with in 2010”, as BCC members thought Brown would then make skills training mandatory.
Fast facts on the skills pledge
157 organisations have signed the skills pledge so far.
Any employer can sign the pledge, no matter the size or sector of business.
It is not yet a legal requirement to sign up.
Employers decide how and when they report progress on the pledge.
Employers will use government funds from the Train to Gain budget to pay for the costs of training staff in basic literacy and numeracy skills, to achieve Level 2 qualifications.
The annual Train to Gain budget stands at £400m for 2007-08, rising to £650m in 2008-09.
Click here for Guru’s view on the launch event