From education to employment

Draft Queens Speech: Workers to be given right to time off for training

Draft Education and Skills Bill would also increase access to apprenticeships.


A new Education and Skills Bill is amongst the items in Gordon Brown’s draft legislative programme which he unveiled today.
Amongst the proposals announced today is legislation to expand apprenticeships; plans to give employees training rights and welfare to work reforms.
The Prime Minister said: ”The new legislation we propose is founded on the new economic truth that the countries that have the skills and the best education systems will reap the greatest rewards.”
Building on the draft Apprenticeships Bill to be published this summer, the Education Bill will provide a statutory entitlement to an apprenticeships place for all suitably qualified young people who want one and ensure apprenticeships agreements are in place between employers and learners. There will also be a provision to ensure school pupils are given comprehensive information about apprenticeships.
Gordon Brown said: “It is unfair, and a threat to our country’s future prosperity, that many qualified young people are still denied access to an apprenticeship. By deciding to legislate for the first time for the statutory right of every suitably qualified young person to obtain an apprenticeship, we expect the numbers of people starting an apprenticeship – just 65,000 a year ten years ago – to rise by 2011 to 210,000: three times as many.”
However the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) were reticent about the draft legislation. John McGurk, CIPD Skills Adviser, said: “We are concerned that the proposed statutory entitlement to an apprenticeship could undermine employer support. Employers are ready to offer apprenticeships if they meet business needs and are being taken up by young people keen to improve themselves. But they should not be allowed to be approached by apprentices as an ‘entitlement’. Youth unemployment will not be solved by a ‘right’ to an apprenticeship.”
Gordon Brown also set out plans to give employees the right to request time off for training. Employers would be legally obliged to consider requests although they could refuse them if there was a sound business reason to do so. CIPD were more positive about this draft legislation. John McGurk said: “We cautiously welcome the proposal to introduce a ‘right to request’ time off for training. The ‘light touch’ right to request approach has worked well with flexible working, for both employers and employees. However, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that training is a two-way street.”
Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham said: “I believe that skills development has to become an integral part of working life for everyone. A right to request training will help ensure this becomes a reality. “
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “For real progress in the nation’s skills levels, the government must tackle the failure of a third of employers to provide any training at all. The most recent National Employers Skills Survey report, from 2007, reveals that many employers claim their staff are ‘fully proficient’ while accepting that their businesses have significant skills gaps. “

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