Skills chief urges organisations to pool training cash to avoid falling way behind China and India

Commercial rivalry must be put aside and training bud­gets pooled in the national skills academies if the UK wants to compete with China and India, the head of a skills council has warned.

Stuart Bernau, commercial and communications director of Nationwide Building Society and chairman of the Financial Services Skills Council, said employers’ training spend should be moved to the new academies.

“If the UK wants to remain the number one centre for financial services in the world, it is vital for providers to put aside their commercial differences and get behind the academies,” he told Personnel Today at the launch of three national skills academies last week.

“We all focus on our own firms, but you have got to be big enough to stand back. If we want to still be on top in 10 years time, we have to invest in skills together,” Bernau said.

The government hopes the academies will shape a menu of courses designed to meet employers’ needs. It aims to have up to 12 academies operational by 2008.

Employer sponsorship will fund about 50% of the capital costs of the academies, with about 35% coming from the government and 15% from other agencies.

Digby Jacks, secretary of the Alliance for Finance trade union, said the collective need to tackle skills shortages was now greater than the desire to be ‘one up’ on competitors. “Firms are going to collaborate more because it is in their own self-interest to do so.

“Poaching top staff is becoming more expensive and recruitment costs are high, so it is in companies’ interests to have a bigger pool of qualified staff,” Jacks said.

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