Skills chief urges employers see recession as opportunity to upskill staff

UK skills supremo Chris Humphries has warned that the UK could soon be going backwards in its efforts to ramp up skill levels to compete in the globalised economy.

Humphries, chief executive of government body the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), warned that training budgets could be slashed as the UK falls into a recession.

“Our concern is that [training cuts] are going to happen. Evidence from the last recession is that training is at the top of the agenda when it comes to cutting budgets,” he said.

Lord Sandy Leitch warned in December 2006 that the UK faced a bleak economic future unless it ramped up the skill levels of its population.

However, Humphries said that if companies used the recession to cut training spending, there was a danger the UK could fall behind other countries rather than catching them up.

“There is a risk that we will go backwards, but there is also the opportunity to catch up,” he said. “We want people to keep training so we gain ground.”

The UKCES last week launched a major campaign to encourage employers to maintain training spending during the likely recession. Senior figures including CBI director-general Richard Lambert and Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose signed an open letter to UK employers warning that cutting spending on skills development was a false economy.

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