Skills chief Chris Humphries says employers fear signing Leitch pledge

A year on from the publication of the Leitch Review, new skills supremo Chris Humphries has admitted employers are still “nervous and unsure” about working with the government to improve the nation’s skills.

The chief executive of the new Commission for Employment and Skills (CES) said government progress on the skills agenda had been “slow but steady”, and acknowledged that employers remained reluctant to sign the flagship pledge for fear that working with government agencies was too complex.

“Employers are unsure about signing the pledge. If they do, the government will provide advice, support, resources, and access to training programmes and Train to Gain [free brokerage service],” he told Personnel Today. “Yet because of the track record on government programmes, employers are nervous that if they say ‘yes’ to this, they will end up getting into a system that is too bureaucratic and complex.”

The skills pledge is a promise by employers to train their staff to a minimum of Level 2 – equivalent to five GCSE grade C passes. It was launched by the government in June after being recommended by Lord Leitch last December.

Humphries added: “There is more nervousness about whether to get involved in the government programme than the pledge itself.”

However, Humphries said he was “chuffed” about the overall progress made in the 12 months since the Leitch Review was published.

The CES, which officially launches in April 2008, will challenge the government to make the skills system more transparent and accessible for employers.

Skills minister David Lammy vowed to ramp up the skills campaign to gain employers’ trust.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, Lammy said the government’s emphasis would be on achieving higher skills – not just Level 2. The government is currently trialling pilots for Level 3 qualifications.

“I hope to extend that coverage to a national offer on Train to Gain at Level 3 next year,” said Lammy.

Lord Leitch’s recommendations

  • Improve skills levels
  • Route public funding of vocational skills through the Train to Gain service and individual learning accounts
  • Create a Commission for Employment and Skills to speak for employers to government
  • Reform and empower the Sector Skills Councils
  • Launch a ‘pledge’ scheme for employers to voluntarily train eligible staff up to Level 2. If progress is unsatisfactory by 2010, 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

Source: Leitch Review

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