The scale of the UK’s skills challenge has been laid bare by a regional survey showing that three in four food and drink manufacturers in the North East have no training budget.
Research carried out by the National Skills Academy (NSA) for Food and Drink Manufacturing found that many employers carried out no skills work at all.
Lord Sandy Leitch warned in December 2006 that the UK faced a bleak future from 2020 unless it ramped up the skills of its population. Leitch insisted the proportion of adults holding five good GCSEs or a vocational equivalent must rise from 69% in 2005 to more than 90% by 2020.
The government has since spent millions of pounds on encouraging workers and employers to access training courses, with its flagship Train to Gain scheme expected to offer contracts worth £650m to training providers this year alone.
Yet of the 187 companies surveyed in the North East, just 16% said they planned to invest in their staff in the next 12 months. Three in four said they did not have a training budget, while 68% had no formal staff training plan at all.
Less than four in 10 employers polled offered access to formal external qualifications such as NVQs and apprenticeships. Six in 10 had no procedures in place for measuring the effectiveness of training given.
Justine Fosh, director of the NSA for Food and Drink Manufacturing, said: “The North East demonstrates a prime example of a cycle where low demand for training is fuelling low supply.
“But the region suffers more skills shortages in its food and drink industry than anywhere else in the UK, and this is costing the industry money.”
Fosh added that training providers working in isolation to serve the needs of their immediate local communities were missing out on business opportunities further afield and, in some cases, failing to grasp the skills problems affecting the food and drink industry as a whole.
The NSA in Food and Drink Manufacturing was founded a year ago to establish and administer networks of training providers on both a national and regional level.