The Liberal Democrats would scrap the Learning and Skills Council and replace it with a new body in charge of lifelong learning and training.
At its annual conference in Bournemouth last week, the party’s employment spokesman Phil Willis said the Government had “moved the chairs on the Titanic” by creating the Learning and Skills Council.
“We understand that in the new environment of employment regulation, blunt instruments that crank up employer investment in training are not the right approach.”
The Lib Dems are offering tax credits or national insurance deductions for firms working towards Investors in People or introducing company training plans.
Willis said, “Government must persuade employers that training is an investment in human assets rather than a cost on the business.
“Many think nothing of investing thousands in updating a computer system yet fail to invest in the skills of their workers.”
The policies are detailed in the Lib Dem policy document, Working for Success. The new body would be called the National Learning Council.
Willis insisted the Government’s policies were not tackling the skills shortages and described Labour as “talking a good tale” about investment in skills. “They hope the New Deal will magically tackle skills shortages. The reality is different,” he said.
The Lib Dems, like the Conservatives, would scrap the New Deal. It would be replaced with a “Flexible Guarantee” for unemployed people, giving them a personal adviser and access to training.
Work Trials would be extended and Work Trials Plus would be introduced, offering employers funding for training in high-skilled jobs.
The Lib Dems, who are enjoying a surge in popularity after the fuel crisis, acknowledged that employers had “absorbed the costs” of the minimum wage and the Social Chapter.
The Lib Dems debated radical proposals to scrap the mandatory retirement age.
Under the scheme, outlined in the party manifesto, people would be free to choose when to retire.
Its policy document, Age of Opportunity, says, “The state has no business in deciding whether it wants people to work longer or to retire earlier. “It said many workers were forced into early retirement because of prejudice against older workers.
By Helena Jones