Business groups have dismissed the government’s message that employers should accept shared responsibility for training staff in basic skills.
New skills secretary John Denham called for businesses to change their attitude towards skills, by creating a culture of shared responsibility between employers and education providers when it comes to training employees.
Denham reminded employers of the looming skills shortage outlined in the Leitch Review last December, which said the UK faced a bleak future and needed a higher-value economy to compete with India and China.
He warned that employers could not “simply look to someone else to take the responsibility for raising the skills of the people who want to work for them”.
Denham urged employers to consider offering foundation degrees, apprenticeships and training in reading and writing.
But the Federation of Small Businesses said businesses should not have to “pick up the slack” for basic training that should have happened at school.
A federation spokesman told Personnel Today: “It is up to the government to make sure the average school leaver has basic qualifications. The employer is there to make sure they can run their business, expand it and keep people employed.”
The Institute of Directors argued that shared responsibility might put employers off getting involved.
Director-general Miles Templeman said: “If you put too much pressure on employers, they are not going to hire people who haven’t got [academic] skills.
“Kids are at school until at least 16. Why is it they can spend 10 years at school and not learn to read or write?”