Skills initiative puts employers in control

Business has welcomed the government’s new skills initiative, but employers will need to be convinced of its credibility when it is rolled out.

The Skills White Paper, launched last week by chancellor Gordon Brown at 11 Downing Street, aims to fill the UK skills gap with a series of employer-led programmes which target the individual needs of businesses.

A report launched at the same time by the Learning and Skills Council found that one in five employers in the UK have skills gaps among their workforce.

Education and skills secretary Ruth Kelly said the government would “put employers needs centre stage in the design and the delivery of training so that better skills can support more businesses”.

A National Employer Training Programme (NETP) will provide a network of brokers who will work with employers to identify their business training needs and then source that training for the organisation.

The government will also part-fund employer-led ‘Skills Academies’, to focus on the needs of each major sector of the economy. In addition, ‘Sector Skills Agreements’ will be developed, setting out the actions needed to secure the specific skills in each sector.

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, said she was pleased the government was looking at skills from the employers’ perspective.

“The government is putting training in the workplace where if belongs, helping employers and employees improve performance on the job,” she said.

However, Martyn Sloman, training and development adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, warned that the brokers who offer NETP training to employers will be crucial to its success.

“Traditionally, training has been an alphabet soup for employers and this is a move in the right direction,” said Sloman.

“But employers have little time and the brokers will need to have the knowledge and credibility to be able to impress on them the importance of this [initiative].”

Key points from the Skills White Paper

  • A new National Employer Training Programme (NETP) will provide free training in the workplace up to the equivalent of five GCSEs
  • Pilots programmes to be set up in two regions, extending subsidised support to NVQ Level 3
  • Skills academies to focus on the needs of each major sector of the economy and raise status and value of vocational training
  • Four ‘sector skills agreements’ to identify skills and productivity needs, the action they will take to meet those needs, and how employers will collaborate with providers of education and training
  • Increasing the number of union learning representatives from 8,000 to 22,000
  • The creation of a union academy to provide training and skills to the trade union movement

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