Train to Gain scheme comes under fire from group of MPs

A £1.5bn government initiative to improve the skill levels of employees has come under fire from a group of MPs.

The Train to Gain scheme was launched in England in 2006 but, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, there was “serious weakness” in the way the scheme has been managed by the Learning and Skills Council.

According to the BBC, the MPs said the initiative had been “mismanaged” from the outset and that the targets set were “unrealistically ambitious”.

The report, published today, acknowledged that the programme had helped 1.4 million learners – about 5% of the workforce – by last summer.

However, the MPs’ report said unrealistic targets led to an under-spend of £150m (out of a budget of £747m) in the first two years; and the following year, a failure to anticipate increased demand because of the recession led to an overspend of £50m.

It also pointed out that success rates for too many providers had been lower than expected, and added the £112m spent on skills advisers was not good value for money.

Half of the employers whose staff received training under the scheme said they would have arranged similar training without the public subsidy, the report said.

Skills minister Kevin Brennan defended the scheme, saying it had benefited thousands of workers.

“Train to Gain has increased the productivity of businesses, and given tens of thousands of employees the opportunity to improve their skills,” he said.

“We don’t agree that our targets for Train to Gain have been unrealistically ambitious. More than 1.4 million qualifications have been started through Train to Gain, and over 850,000 have been completed since 2006. Evidence shows employers and employees alike value the programme.”

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