Skills agenda is far too complex for employers

I read with interest the article on the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee’s recent findings on the UK’s current training system (‘Obsession with Leitch Review skills targets slammed by MPs’, Personnel Today, 20 January).

From our perspective, as a company charged with delivering the government skills agenda, it is true that the training and skills provision is far too complex for its own good – something that can probably be put down to the constant changes those heading it up are fond of making.

There is a crying need for simplification, continuity and an end to burdensome bureaucracy to really engage with employers and their workforce. To illustrate the problem, a principle that is followed in the service industry is ‘make it easy for the customer to buy’, but this is far from the case when it comes to helping employers ‘buy into’ the skills agenda. If they cannot understand it in the first place they are hardly going to be persuaded to buy.

In addition to this, strategies and plans need to be much more long term. While the plans have to be flexible in the light of economic circumstances, they must remain within an overall long-term strategy. Work-based learning providers are all too used to coping with the current ‘flavour of the month’. Employers have other priorities without having to contend with the vagaries and changes in government policy and the practices of its skills and training agenda.

Clearly, the government must respond to and help people who, through no fault of their own, are losing their jobs. I would argue that both upskilling and re-skilling redundant workers is critical for the economic good of the nation, but such training must be planned and acted on in a consistent, thoughtful and clear manner – and this is something the government must take the lead on.

John Herman, managing director, Intec Business Colleges

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