Skills minister David Lammy brushes off criticism of Leitch pledge efforts

Skills minister David Lammy has insisted the UK skills drive is progressing well, despite only 50 companies having signed the Leitch pledge to train all staff to Level 2 since its launch in June.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, Lammy said another 500 employers had expressed an interest in signing the pledge, and 1.8 million employees were covered by those firms that already had.

He also denied that the 9,000 telephone calls received by the helpline promoted by the multi-million pound skills campaign was a disappointing figure.

“I think we’ve made good progress: 9,000 calls is a pretty high volume for a campaign that began in July,” he said. “The skills pledge is part of a culture change we are winning the debate for people to gain Level 2 skills.”

Lammy also echoed skills secretary John Denham’s calls to allow employers to self-accredit in-house training.

“The commitment is there to ensure that employer assessment and qualifications are more prominent. We must look at the benchmark by which employers are able to do that,” he said.

But Bernard Buckley, HR director at communications giant Cable & Wireless, said he was not sure that self-­accreditation would make a huge difference to the skills scenario in the UK.

“My view of what makes a competent worker is different to another company’s. We test [applicants] against competencies for a particular role. We wouldn’t take it as read that you can do what it says on a company-accredited piece of paper,” he said.

Geoff Matthews, head of the Honda Institute, responsible for training in the UK’s Honda dealer networks, said: “I want the government to go to small businesses that we deal with and persuade them to train their people. For it to keep banging on to companies about signing the pledge is a waste of resource.”

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