Time running out to tackle skills crisis, warns Sir Digby Jones

Time is running out for British businesses to tackle the burgeoning skills famine threatening to blight the economy, UK skills envoy Sir Digby Jones has warned.

Speaking at the British Chamber of Commerce annual conference earlier this week, Jones called for businesses to work closely with their Sector Skills Councils to “drive forward” development of economically valuable skills, and avoid compulsory regulation in 2010.

The Leitch Review of Skills recommended employers should be forced by law to provide training unless they ramp up their workers’ basic skills by 2010.

“The development of economically valuable skills is the most important issue facing British businesses today,” Jones said.

“The government is promising compulsion if businesses fail to grasp this opportunity to address the skills issue by 2010, and that would mean the nightmare of red tape, and one-size-fits-all bureaucracy.”

He called on UK businesses to lead a culture change and take control of the way training and development is handled.

“We need to consider new options for moving forward and potential partnerships at every level to facilitate upskilling, such as workplace-based employment solutions for new starters at an earlier age,” he said. “Why should 16 be the Clapham Junction of education and training?”

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