From education to employment

But Tories claim employers already doing enough

Employers are being urged to sign government contracts that will “commit” them to train their workforces to Level 2, it was revealed yesterday.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, together with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Alan Johnson, announced the “Skills Pledge” that, when signed, will require employers “to ensure that all their employees reach a skills level equivalent to five good GCSEs”.

In an effort to further push towards a “demand-led” sector, employers who agree to the pledge will have to train workers to basic levels of literacy, numeracy and “employability skills for progression”.

Mr Brown commented on the new proposals: “In the future skills will be the only route to prosperity and jobs. Of 3.4 million unskilled jobs today, by 2020 we will need only 600,000. So if the UK is to continue to succeed in the new global economy we will need to be more ambitious with more people training and employers, employees and government each meeting their responsibilities”.

“This will only succeed if the British people themselves are involved in discussing and agreeing this priority to invest in education and skills. This way we can build the consensus essential if today’s working men and women are going to achieve better-paid jobs and a better future for their children”.

Alan Johnson added: “We are kick-starting a public debate on the best way to improve skills in this country ““ our future competitiveness depends on it. Employers have a crucial role to play in this and must make skills training relevant for the challenges of the future. It is also vital we generate a culture of learning amongst individuals”.

“I am looking forward to hearing from training providers, individuals and employers about how they think we can best promote skills and be truly competitive by 2020″.

unionlearn Director Liz Smith noted: “The Government’s plan for an employers” Skills Pledge is a welcome move to try and bring the one third of employers on board who have been refusing to train their staff. Unions with the help of unionlearn have been showing for some years how to make such a pledge real, and have so far signed over 400 learning agreements with employers which have benefited workers, employers, and many companies”.

“The Government sponsored skills review by Lord Leitch stated that if insufficient employers have taken the pledge in three years time then a legal entitlement should be introduced. Unions will now be monitoring progress and identifying those employers who are still dragging their feet and not taking the pledge. Over 15,000 union learning reps helped more than 100,000 people to improve their skills last year”.

However, Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills, David Willets, was critical of the government’s new initiative: “Gordon Brown is right to be worried about skills levels in Britain. After 10 years in Government, more than 20,000 children still leave school without a single GCSE and fewer than 50% achieve 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths”.

“Gordon Brown expects employers to make up for the failures of Labour’s education system. Companies should expect school leavers to have the skills the Chancellor is now calling for, but too many young people still lack basic numeracy and literacy”.

He pointed to the recent Leitch report which detailed that employer spending on training [2000] was running double to that of government; £23.5 billion compared to £10.4b, respectively.

“Employers are keeping their side of the bargain by already investing more than twice as much as the Government in training and skills. It is now for the education system to do its bit for better skills”.

Mr Willets also clashed with the Education Secretary yesterday morning in the House of Commons, referring to the statistic that less than half of all apprentices successfully complete their course.

He said: “Is it not shocking that only 41% of people under 18 and only 38% of people over 18 successfully complete their apprenticeships? Does that not tell us that many employers and employees do not find apprenticeships valuable? It is no good focusing on start rates if we have such low successful completion rates”.

Alan Johnson replied: “Some youngsters give up their apprenticeships to take jobs, sometimes in the same company. However, there has been a huge increase””about 15% – in the apprenticeship completion rate. Lord Leitch recognises the improvements that have been made and that we have increased the number of apprenticeships from 75,000 ““ the figure when we came into government ““ to 250,000″.

“We are already tackling the problem of high drop-out rates and seeing stark and real improvements”.

Vijay Pattni.

What do you think about the “Skills Pledge”?

Email the Editor: [email protected].

Related FE News articles:

“Not So Sweet Sixteen” ““ 05/02/07

Brown Backs School Leaving Age Rise ““ 01/02/07

FE Staff “Stressed Out” By Management ““ 26/01/07

“We Need To Focus On Vocational Education” ““ 19/01/07

“Nation Needs Vocational Education” ““ 18/01/07

“Leitch Report Kicked Into Long Grass” ““ 17/01/07

Adult Learning Inspectorate Publishes Final Report ““ 12/12/06

Breaking News ““ Lord Leitch’s Final Report Published ““ 05/12/06

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