Opinion: budget boost must benefit businesses

Skills minister John Healey
supports the Chancellor’s decision to inject more money into IIP and claims it
is vital for increasing staff productivity

There is no clearer sign of
this Government’s backing for Investors in People than the extra funds announced
by the Chancellor during his Budget statement.

He said: “I can today respond
to joint work by the CBI and TUC by announcing an additional £30m so more
businesses can reach Investors in People standards.”

This new money the Government
is pumping in will be used to encourage take-up of the Standard within small
firms and should answer critics in the business community who may have doubted
its commitment to the Investors in People Standard.

The money in the Budget is on
top of the £2.5m already allocated this year to raise the profile and boost the
delivery of Investors in People in the shorter term (News, 9 April). And the
number of companies committing to working towards the Standard is on the up
again – nearly 2,100 organisations in the four months to January this year,
almost back to the levels of the same period in the previous year (2,400). And
we can expect Investors in People recognitions to rise accordingly.

However, I want to put a
special emphasis on increasing the number of small businesses achieving the
Investors in People Standard. They employ 44 per cent of the country’s
workforce but less than 1 per cent are working towards IIP status. I realise
that the smaller the company, the harder it often is to find the time, money
and expertise to invest in your workforce.

But the Standard can bring
benefits to any size of firm and must be made available to all. The new money
will directly benefit firms employing less than 50 people through measures such
as the development of beacon status businesses.

These beacons will spur other
businesses to follow in their footsteps and achieve Investors in People
recognition through a mentoring and support programme. Clear targets will also
be set so that the improvement in uptake is transparent and reflects the size
of the investment.

Why am I such a strong
supporter of the Standard? Because the bottom line is that it works. Investors
in People is the best workforce and business development standard we have.
Employers with Investors in People status recognise that success in businesses
comes from a motivated and well-trained workforce – as the 25,000 who have
received the standard during its first decade will testify.

In a recent study, 73 per cent
of IIP companies surveyed said that it helped them to meet their business
objectives. Half reported a positive impact on business growth or performance.
More than half said they had seen customer satisfaction improve.

By the end of this year we want
45 per cent of organisations in England with more than 50 employees recognised
as Investors in People, and an additional 10,000 smaller organisations. We must
meet these targets and move well beyond them in future years.

More than a third of UK
employees now work for a  company that
either has or is working towards the standard. But if we want to raise the
skills levels of our workforce to match the best in the world by 2010,
mobilising more employers – large and small – must be our priority.

Raising skills levels is
essential to our economic growth. Firms with higher levels of training have
higher productivity. The challenge we face is to embed workforce training and
development in all businesses large and small – and Investors in People has a
central role to play in this.

John Healey is Education and
Skills Minister


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