Gordon Brown urges businesses to upskill their workforce

Gordon Brown has urged businesses to continue to upskill the nation’s workforce as the economy plunges further into recession.

Speaking at the annual CBI conference in London, the prime minister told companies they were capable of taking the British economy through difficult times and called on them to continue to invest in employees’ talent and skills to be able to compete on a global scale with emerging economies.

Businesses needed to fully prepare for the rise of Asia, a global capital market, the global sourcing of goods and services, and with that global restructuring of people, he said.

“Even if there had been no cyclical rise in unemployment, all of us would have to deal with the consequences of a more specialist international division of labour and the resulting restructuring of jobs, and for Britain that means investing in the new talents and skills required for the technological and creative industries,” he said.

Brown added that 1 billion new jobs were being created worldwide in the new global economy, and Britain must attract its share of that flow of jobs.

The call to train up the UK’s workers came as the CBI urged the government to help prevent small firms collapsing in the economic downturn. CBI boss Richard Lambert warned that without help “there is a real risk we could see healthy firms going under”. The Pre-Budget Report this afternoon is expected to offer measures to small firms to cope in the recession,

The threat of emerging global economies was highlighted in 2006 when Lord Leitch published his Review of Skills. Leitch said that for Britain to gain world-class skills businesses would need to put far more effort into training their staff in basic maths and English skills, but also to Level 3 and beyond.

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