Government agencies fail to tackle shortfall in skills and productivity

The bodies set up by the government to tackle the UK’s shortfall in skills and productivity are failing business, according to employers.

The annual CBI and Pertemps employment survey shows that only a third of employers who had contact with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in 2005 received any useful information.

Just over half (56%) of businesses said they had contacted the employer-led Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), but only one in six of them (16%) reported they had received useful information.

The LSC is the public body that plans and funds vocational education and training. It is a central part of the government’s drive to fill skills gaps and boost productivity.

However, respondents rated public training providers as consistently poorer performers than private training providers, except in terms of cost.
More than 90% said they used private training providers, with only 42% using public bodies.

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, said that employers were being let down by the LSC and further education colleges.

“There are a lot of concerns over whether they are providing support for business needs,” she said. “Most employers are using private sector training, yet further education colleges still receive the lion’s share of funding.”

The 23 employer-led SSC’s were set up to communicate skills needs to government departments and training providers. Anderson said that SSCs were still in their infancy and were trying hard to reach out to business.

This year, 44% of respondents to the survey said they had no contact with their SSC, compared to almost three-quarters (73%) in 2004.

However, Anderson questioned whether employers, who tend to have their own training schemes, were willing to invest in SSCs.
“It’s not necessarily in the interest of a large firm to subsidise their smaller rivals,” she said.

“The jury is still out on whether [the SSCs] will add value.”

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