Skills secretary John Denham has distanced the government from carrying out its threat of requiring employers to provide training in 2010 if not enough employers have signed up to the skills pledge – a key recommendation of the Leitch Review.
In an exclusive interview with Personnel Today, Denham insisted the number of employers signing the skills pledge – which commits firms to training their staff to Level 2 – was not significant, as long as the message to invest in learning and development was being driven home.
“The skills pledge is important – not so much how many employers sign it numerically – but it does help us get the message across that training is good for your business,” he said.
“What everybody is working towards is a situation where the skills pledge, [skills brokerage service] Train to Gain, and employer engagement in training gathers momentum, so any question of needing to do things differently [in 2010] doesn’t really exist,” he said.
Ministers have continually insisted the drive to improve workers’ skills is gathering pace, despite evidence suggesting employers are still not fully committed.
Prime minister Gordon Brown reiterated last November that he had not ruled out giving employees a legal entitlement to training from 2010 if not enough firms had signed the pledge.
Research from the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) published last week showed just 6% of the 1,137 employers surveyed had ever worked with a government-funded skills broker – such as Train to Gain – despite the huge push over the past year to ramp up organisations’ involvement in skills. But Denham said he was confident that employers had shown more commitment to training since last summer’s skills pledge launch.
“We have many employers in this country who are heavily engaged in training, make full use of Train to Gain, and others who don’t as yet,” he said. “The good news in the LSN survey is that it did show an increase in employers’ interest in training and overall commitment to training.”
A further study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development revealed just 47% of organisations believed their learning and development work had been influenced by the government’s post-Leitch Review skills agenda.
Almost 90% said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that young people were educated to appropriate standards of numeracy and literacy.
Employers’ views on skills
44% of organisations will require a higher level of skills by 2010
87% believe the government should ensure young people have basic numeracy and literacy
57% believe employers have a role to play in raising workforce standards
45% of public sector respondents reported a cut in training funds over the past year.