Leitch Report ‘pledges’ to tackle skills crisis

Employers should be forced by law to provide training unless they ramp up their workers’ basic skills by 2010, a government-commissioned report has said.

The long-awaited Leitch Report recommended that firms sign a voluntary pledge to train their staff to Level 2 – the equivalent of five GCSEs at grades A-C. If not enough employers sign up by 2010, then it should be made a legal requirement, the report added.

Lord Sandy Leitch outlined a bleak vision of the UK’s economic future and insisted a higher-value economy was needed to compete with India and China.

“Without increased skills, we condemn ourselves to a lingering decline in competitiveness and a bleaker future for all,” he told the Treasury last week.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the report sent “a strong message to employers who short-change staff and the economy by refusing to train”.

But the EEF manufacturers’ body insisted the government must deliver on its commitment to create a demand-led training system before turning on employers.

“This needs to be done as soon as possible and we haven’t seen any timetable yet,” said a spokesman.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development warned that Leitch was being unrealistic by relying on employers.

The organisation’s learning and development adviser Eileen Arney said: “The suggestion of compulsion gives too little weight to the reality that, for many employers, it is not in their financial interest to invest in portable skills that might be poached by competitors.”

But the CBI said the report proved the need for business to raise its game. “The CBI will encourage its members to respond to Leitch’s call for employers to help their staff to gain basic skills,” the employers’ body said.

Leitch insisted the proportion of adults holding five good GCSEs or a vocational equivalent must rise from 69% in 2005 to more than 90% by 2020. He also called for 95% of adults to have functional literacy and numeracy skills for an additional two million people to gain A-levels 500,000 apprentices per year and four in 10 to have degree-level qualifications by 2020.

The Treasury said it would consider how best to implement the report’s recommendations, as part of the government’s 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Leitch review recommendations

  • Increase skill attainments.
  • Route public funding of vocational skills through Train to Gain service and Learner Accounts.
  • Create a Commission for Employment and Skills to speak for employers to government.
  • Reform and empower the Sector Skills Councils.
  • Launch ‘pledge’ scheme for employers to voluntarily train eligible employees up to Level 2. In 2010, if progress is unsatisfactory, introduce statutory entitlement to training.
  • Boost employer investment in Level 3 and 4 qualifications.
  • Create high-profile awareness programmes promoting the benefit of skills.
  • Develop a network of employer-led ’employment and skills boards’ to influence skills delivery.

For more on the Leitch Report, see our special issue on 2 January

Barometer question

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